Cheatalympics

The sport events known as Olympics has had a long affair with doping. Some substances can signficantly increase the capability of athletes, at least in the short-term. These substances are banned, however. Ignoring the potentially harmful effects of certain drugs, why? If the whole point of Olympics is to be the fastest, jump the highest and so on, why wouldn’t people be able to use these substances to aid them? The answer would be something along the lines of that the athlete should derive his results through committed training and dedication, not “cheating”. In other words, it’s deemed to be too much of an unfair advantage.


Even if all the competition ran faster than Asterix, Asterix won because he didn’t use the magic portion.

At that point I’m starting to wonder. It’s undeniable that the athletes who win medals would never be as good as they are if they didn’t have the genetic disposition required to do so. Not only is genetics a very strong factor, but the socio-economic aspect as well. The Soviet Union, for example, had a pretty impressive track record on winning Olympic medals. But, as can be seen here, Russia’s medals have decreased since then. Does this mean that Russians suddenly got inherently worser at sports? No, it’s mean that the resources committed by the Russian state have not been as good. In this sense, the Olympics can be seen as a sort of nationalistic masturbation because it’s divided along the lines of nation against nation.

If certain athletes have such an advantage in genetics, doesn’t the concept sort of fall on the ground? They say that sports is a test in how far one can push the human body, but that is at variance with the policy on doping. And then the line gets even more blurry.

The International Olympic Committee has seemingly been playing catch-up for years with athletes who use sophisticated means to mask their use of steroids, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, or EPO, and other performance-enhancing drugs.

Now, through the World Anti-Doping Agency, the I.O.C. wants to anticipate the possibility that athletes will begin re-engineering certain genes to strengthen their muscles, increase their oxygen-carrying capacity, block their pain or speed their pace of healing from injury.

”The best way to deal with it is to prevent it and move quickly to the forefront of the technology,” Dick Pound, the anti-doping agency’s chairman, said yesterday in Manhattan after a conference on genetic enhancement in athletics at Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., that was attended by scientists, sports officials, educators and ethicists.

The use of drugs, and, perhaps, more startling, the engineering of genes to enhance performance, raises questions about the notion of what an athlete is. Is he the product of his genetic makeup, environment and training?

Or can he add to his natural stew with the latest in scientific advances?

Pound, a former Olympic swimmer and longtime I.O.C. member, said, ”Sports are designed by people for people — people are not designed for a particular sport.”

Still, that purism has been tainted by drug use; altering genes appears to represent the latest temptation.

Research into genetic therapy for legitimate medical purposes has been taking place for years, with only limited success so far. Pound said there was no evidence that the emerging genetic technology had been used by athletes. Some experts wonder, though, if illicit efforts are under way to harness the emerging techniques for athletics. ”It’s impossible to say there isn’t clandestine work in genetics going on,” said Theodore Friedmann, professor of pediatrics at the University of California’s Center for Molecular Genetics in San Diego.

Christopher Evans, director of the Center for Molecular Orthopedics at Harvard Medical School, raised the question a different way. ”Could a rogue person be doing this in his basement?” he said. ”Probably.”

Pound suggested that genetic enhancement could be widespread among athletes within five years, underscoring the need to develop ways of detecting such abuse before it occurs.

The scientific and sports communities are faced with a dilemma: the same genetic transfer techniques that would be used for legitimate medical therapies — think of an anterior cruciate ligament that does not tear when a ton’s worth of defensive linemen tackle a running back — could also be used illicitly.

”How do we distinguish enhancement from treatment?” said Joseph Glorioso, director of the Pittsburgh Human Gene Therapy Center at the University of Pittsburgh. ”Athletes should have rights of access to therapies. But we have to control the length of expression of the gene, and that will take a lot of judgment.”

Friedmann said therapy and enhancement were part of a continuum in which a genetic treatment to heal a short-term injury could also lead to the long-term enhancement of the athlete’s genetic makeup.

So, the peeps who are in charge of the Olympics think that people shouldn’t be allowed to make up for their genetic shortfalls – since it’s an enhancement it’s apparently automatically a no-no. At the same time, Kenyans appear to have better genetic capabilities for running, and people are thus interested in getting Kenyans to train and become runners in support of their nations. What’s the difference between genetic enhancement and deliberately looking for certain genetic populations who perform better? Evidently the Olympic committee finds it to be a very large distinction.

Paralympics has also started. Yet again I find this strange, the people who participate in the Paralympics wouldn’t be able to stand up to the people who participate in the Olympics. But not just about everyone can participate in the Paralympics, one needs to be handicapped. So this is like a game where the limits of the human body is tested – but only for the handicapped? Divided along nationality, of course. May I perhaps propose that we start the Decentlympics, for people who perhaps aren’t the best, but are otherwise healthy and physically well? At that point it becomes pretty obvious how silly the Olympics is.

Dick Pound is an amusing name, BTW.

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One Response to “Cheatalympics”

  1. Why Is Doping Bad? « Procrastination Embodied Says:

    […] going to quote from an old shame of mine: The sport events known as Olympics has had a long affair with doping. Some substances can […]

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