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.
Camilla said on August 11, 2004 at 7:06 am
I’ve never understood it though. Wouldn’t you be cheating yourself of a real sense of pride and achievement by using performance enhancing drugs? Wouldn’t you always have in the back of your mind that you only won because you took those drugs, and not because of your own natural talent and hard work?
It’s sad that it’s got to the stage where there are so many drugs in sports that people feel they can only be competitive by using the drugs too. I don’t have any confidence in the current rash of drug-busts in cycling either. They are only getting the “small fry” on the sides of the competition. I suspect if you or your team have enough money, then you also have a certain degree of immunity.
Anyway. Off my hobby-horse (the one with wooden wheels and no brakes).
Randy said on August 11, 2004 at 9:35 am
I wasn’t surprised to read the lament of a user -“everyone else is doing it”. Lots of athletes are, I imagine, and lots aren’t.
There was another article in the NYT yesterday about long distance runners, trying to determine why some people will always run faster and longer than others. Turns out it’s because they have larger hearts than the average person, and the benefits trickle down from there.
Next week’s news?: scientists developing steroid to enlarge human heart.
4dbirds said on August 11, 2004 at 11:29 am
That’s some neck. Bigger than my thigh and I’m no delicate girlie girl.
Nance said on August 11, 2004 at 2:15 pm
One of the best seminar speakers we had last year was an IOC member who spoke on this very topic. He said we’re not only catching just small fry, we’ve barely started to see what drugs can do for athletes. “Wait until we get into genetic modification,” he said, I shudder to think.