During some recent TV debate which framed one of those ever so camp media panics about drugs in sport, I heard a fascinating assertion by someone whom I think was a chick lit writer (not that there’s anything wrong with that, Fnarr fnarr).
She slightly livened up what until then had been a terribly tired ‘discussion’ by suggesting that, as entirely passive viewers of sport, people who watch the Olympics on telly have a right to know that athletes are not cheating.
Really? Can such a thing truly be defined as a right? Should legislators heave off their lightly tanned summer rumps and start defining a whole new series of rights for the bottom politic?
Isn’t it a bit like saying that we have the right not to be lied to by politicians? Maybe such a right does indeed exist in some theoretical parallel universe, but it is something of non-existent practical value.
All inhabitants of the globe enjoy theoretical rights. We have a right to life, until someone with a gun or guided missile chooses to take it away. We have a right to breathe, until the atmosphere becomes unbreathable. We have a right to water, until a government decides it can make outrageous fortunes by selling these rights to private profiteers.
But do we really have a right to certainty that those infeasible human specimens limbering up on the track aren’t squirting naughty liquids into themselves to shave off some vital millisecond? It seems, and believe me I regret the pun even as I reach for it, like a bit of a leap.
Doping in athletics is now apparently so ubiquitous that, surely, wondering about it has become part of the very fun of the Olympics. Let’s face it: it’s a conversation starter. We are lectured constantly about how mass media is destroying our ability to talk to each other. We should be very wary about getting rid of something that positively encourages the lost art.
No sooner has some athlete completed the 800 metres in a time that would stretch the capabilities of an outraged cheetah than someone – be it on a bar stool or an extra thick sofa – is compelled to sit back, scratch something reflectively and wonder: “is he /she on drugs?”
Other, well worn couch potatoes, with or without drinks or tacos in hand, feel compelled to offer their own two cents. A meaningful human reaction ensues. We all get closer together, or as close as our increasingly gelatinous bodies will allow.
You could argue that cheating athletes are heroes, selflessly risking their lives so that the rest of us can get closer together without moving our ever expanding butts, but that is perhaps stretching things a little.
The fact is that we love a little intrigue with our vicarious human exertion. We love to wile away our increasingly immobile evenings with good old conspriracy theories: “sure look at your woman, real people don’t have arses like that.”
There is something about the morbid curiosity of it all that the bottom politic finds irresistible. It’s a bit like poor old Michael Jackson’s life story: you shuddered but couldn’t help wondering how it would all end.
Part of me even agrees with the Irish comedian Tommy Tiernan, who argued that, rather than persist with seemingly futile efforts to ban doping in sport, the authorities should just come right out and stage a full scale drug Olympics, a global conflict between rival pharmacologies.
The Olympics could than go back to what it was always supposed to be: a bollock naked (or nearly so) conflict between nationalities; one of the few socially acceptable mediums for the expression of global enmity and hatred.
Has China really overtaken the US when it comes to having the best drugs? For God’s sake, who wouldn’t want to find that out?
There’s the added attraction that, as Tommy Tiernan points out, he can’t wait to see someone run the 100 metres in less than a second. Neither can I. Neither can you. It’ll be something extra special to boggle at for a second or two before scratching yourself and trying to decide if you want more nuts or pork scratchings.
Aside from the rather strange idea of ascribing new rights to the passive consumers of second hand struggle, the other main argument for stamping out doping has to do with the idea of being fair to those athletes who don’t cheat, assuming of course that any of these actually still exist.
Really? Shouldn’t you take a moment to think about just who it is you’re trying to be fair to? Aside from those very isolated examples who save somebody’s puppy and end up winning the Nobel Peace Prize, most athletes are utter assholes. Indeed, the very nature of their chosen profession cannot but make them so.
Have you ever heard one of them being interviewed? They are among the most self-absorbed twits on the planet. Most are entirely incapable of uttering a sentence that doesn’t have the words ‘I’ or ‘me’ in it. Their entire lives are devoted to ruthless focus upon themselves at the expense of every other human consideration. Your average athlete would probably run straight past a tree full of burning children that risk losing out on a precious ‘peebee.’
Didn’t there used to be some idea one time about rights carrying responsibilities? Should you really be fair to people who have no interest in being fair to anyone else?