In the annals of human-interest stories, one hardy perennial is this: People Who Screw Up and Don’t Understand Why, Even Though Everyone Else Does. That’s probably why I plowed through this fairly lengthy profile of Tammy Thomas, a disgraced, banned-for-life cyclist trying to rebuild a life wrecked by some fairly obvious doping activity.
(I say “fairly obvious” if only because Thomas looks so drenched in steroids she’s thisclose to sprouting a penis, although that’s probably unfair — I don’t know what she looked like when her training-table diet was strictly over-the-counter. In any event, she’s mistaken for a man regularly.)
Nevertheless, the profile is an interesting picture of a different sort of drug addiction — not to euphoria or oblivion, but winning:
“At some point, the athlete has a choice to stop or keep going,” she said. “But you start to think that if you don’t take something, you’re going to lose. And who’s going to cheer for someone who finishes last in a heat?” She added: “Athletes don’t really care about their bodies. They care more about winning.” … Thomas doubts that anyone in the Olympics is clean because every athlete has “access to a whole medicine cabinet full of drugs.” In 1999, for instance, she said she injected herself with an iron supplement for suckling pigs that she had bought from an online veterinarian. She could not find injectable iron for humans, which is supposed to boost performance. Five years later, at the injection site on her buttocks, there is still a lemon-size black-and-blue mark.
Sad, sad story.