Thursday, February 14, 2008

Elite Sport and Drugs

There is a brouhaha in the press at the moment vis-a-vis the selection of "drug cheat" Dwain Chambers to represent Britain at next month's World Indoor Championships. Politaholic has some sympathy for him. Drug taking is endemic in athletics. I suspect that most do not take drugs in order to cheat. It has gone way beyond that. The choice an athlete faces is to seek chemical assistance, or else be at a competitive disadvantage, given that so many of the others are pumped full of drugs. Taking drugs doesn't give one an advantage; it just levels the playing field.
Politaholic also thinks that there is massive hypocrisy about this. I suspect many of those loudest in their denunciation partake or partook, and I suspect this is true of many of those retired athletes who are most venerated and honoured. Once retired, and out of the game, they are "safe" and can adopt the "holier than thou" pose which, if honest to themselves, they know to be bollocks.
One root case of this sorry state of affairs is the philosophy that "winning is everything". And while on the subject, that little squirt James Purnell announced last November (when he was Culture Secretary) that the philosophy of "sport for all" was to be de-emphasised and that instead henceforth more and more money will be channelled into training "elite" athletes. Purnell, according to the Guardian (25/11/07) said that the priority is not "encouraging participation" but rather "sporting excellence". This to Politaholic is quite the wrong approach: that we should all sit on our arses watching "elite" athletes compete for high honours, fame, and money. And if winning really is everything, why not resort to steroids? But, hey, if they do win Purnell and his ilk will have an opportunity to wave the Union Jack. Which is what "elite sport" is all about: vulgar displays of national chauvinism. Personally, rather than watch some other guy run, I'd rather have a quiet cycle through the countryside (Denmark this year, I think); but that (as Purnell says) is not "sport".


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