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Olympics, Doping and the uncertainty of results

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 11, 2008


It used to be fun to watch the Olympics. The athletes were heroes. As a small boy I dreamed of being an Olympian. Not that I was ever good at sports – but the mere nature of Olympism made it possible, at least in my small boy mind.Back then all athletes were fair, honest and clean. They reached their records and results through hard work, dedication and commitment, or at least that was what I and my peers thought.

The came Ben Johnson and his abuse of steroids when I was in my twenties – an entire world was dumbfounded – what had happened? With the realization that athletes used enhancement drugs to achieve their results came a sneaking sense that no results could be trusted. By the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall every nation had suspect athletes in their ranks, and hoards of them came forwards from the former Eastern European Block, where doping had been not only the regiment of the day for the individual athlete, but a State Practice.

Numerous World and Olympic records will never be broken, because the athletes who set them were cheating.

The most elusive of them all, to me is Flo-Jo’s 21.34 on 200 meters sprint. I am certain that will never be broken, and I am also certain that she was using illicit drugs to be able to run that fast. She was never caught, nor was her record ever questioned, at least not openly, and now we cannot ask her, because she’s dead – but, and consider this carefully – one of the known effects of abuse of steroids is premature heart failure – Flo-Jo died at age 38 from heart failure.

China swears that this Olympics will be absolutely clean. Yet, several athletes have already been sent home after testing positive for various banned substances.

I will be watching the events in this year’s Olympic Games, and for the most part I will enjoy myself, but every now and then will I ask, quietly “is that athlete clean?”. Because for each that is caught, I am sure that a handful is not.

I wish I was a small boy again, watching my heroes with unreserved adoration and belief that one day it could be me.

Henric

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