Thursday, 2 April 2009

The fresh wind of change for sport

Sport doping began as a means to an end during the communist era in Eastern Europe. We remember those great East German and Russian women built like battleships and tanks throwing their spears and hammers half way across the world's Olympic stadia. We gazed in wonderment from the innocent English shores where sport had always been more or less a hobby.

Chariots of Fire meant cutting down on cigarettes and jogging on a beach or up and down some sand dunes coupled with a few press-ups and so on. Gold medal marathon runner Ron Hill's idea of a supplement was a mixture of orange juice, water and a pinch of salt.

We could run like the comic hero Tough of the Track on a diet of fish and chips and steak puddings; and through all weathers and in unsuitable footwear. It was all sport. We spoke innocently of someone being a good sport, meaning that he or she was a fair minded person. The idea of doping was almost unheard of.

But then we saw Arnold Schwarzenegger become Mr Universe, and those battle cruiser East European women scooping all the gold medals and the glory. Not only we, but all of Europe and then all of the world. We decided to become stronger and faster whatever it took to do it.

The Tour de France rider with his baguette and bottle of water, or in one famous case a bottle of wine which caused him to fall asleep at the roadside, became almost overnight a drug experiment on wheels. And in other sports like athletics we saw men built like weightlifters pumped up with steroids winning races that once went to the slim and lithe. It was crazy. It was nonsense. It was big money. And, here in Austria, it is now crashing down.

In the last few days there have been raids and arrests. For the first time those behind the scenes are being rounded up; or at least two or three of them are. More, we can only hope, will quickly follow. Austria, once known as a doping oasis, is getting at long last to grips with the problem. I applaud the Austrian authorities for this overdue action.

Let no stone be unturned in the fight, for it is a fight and it will be a long struggle, against those corrupt and evil drug and blood-doping dealers who would not hesitate to injure the health of young men and women, boys and girls, who strive to make the grade in their chosen sport.

Managers and trainers of young talent have a responsibility to make sure that all their athletes; swimmers, skiers, cyclists, weight lifters, wrestlers, boxers, marathon runners and so on are clean and doping free. When they abuse their position of responsibility and the confidence that parents, friends, relatives and supporters of the young up-and-coming talent have entrusted them with they deserve no mercy. Throw the book at them!

4 comments:

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree but I do always feel that these days the pressure on athletes of Olympic quality must be tremendous and the temptations great. What seems to have kicked in since my "young days!" is the psychological thing - you have to keep telling yourself you are going to win - that kind of thing. When a runner, for example, is interviewed before a race, these days he or she always says - well yes - I am going to win this race - I believe in myself - I think that puts huge pressure on the individual to boost his or her confidence and I suppose drugs is an easy way to do it. The real fault lies in a society that makes such a big issue out of winning. What has happened to the spirit of "it is the taking part, not the winning that is important"?
Incidentally, Bard, thanks so much for your encouragement over my latest two "poems" - there were very interesting to do.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Sorry, meant "they" not "there" - I am trying to do several jobs at once - not a good idea when you are over forty.

Poet in Residence said...

Weaver, the IOC, the politicians and the advertising industry have a lot to answer for. The unholy trick-or-treat triumvirate has dragged society down a glittery false road where only winning matters. Today's motto is win: "by Hook or by Crook" (Cromwell)
At least in fell running and mountain running we are to a large extent still in touch with nature and wilderness. Our motives are different from those of the greedy grabbing madding crowd.

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