The recent Lance Armstrong debacle has well and truly made a farce out of anti-doping procedures in sport. He has effectively stolen seven Tour de France titles from a peloton of more deserving, legitimate athletes. The fact that it was not questioned earlier, that a recovering cancer patient stormed his way to a cumulative 21000 miles of dominance, is utterly baffling. The systems in place are simply not effective enough, with the majority of tests being conducted a month after a letter of warning, giving athletes in any sport the chance to flush banned substances from their body prior to the screens. I do not even want to imagine how much money is spent on these measures by various governing bodies, but with a single EPO blood test costing $60 and urine tests costing nigh on $400 a piece, I would assume that the companies who produce them are not short of a few quid.
This got me thinking. Modern sport is all about the enjoyment both players and spectators receive from fair competition. Athletes thrive off breaking records and pushing the boundaries of what is humanly achievable, dedicating themselves to a life of toil and strain to achieve their goals, and sports fans love observing their efforts. Surely then, if the fundamental nature of sport is the strife to over-achieve, then why not permit the use of performance enhancers? The money saved on seemingly ineffective tests could go to a better cause, replacing them instead with regular health checks to make sure that the athletes are not being foolish with their new dietary freedom. Moreover, if all athletes partook in the taking of drugs, the fair competition, which we cherish so dearly, would become a whole lot more exciting.
For instance, I would love to see Usain Bolt running the one hundred metres in six seconds, as opposed to the quite frankly pedestrian nine and a half that he currently coasts along at. I want Chris Hoy to cycle so fast around the velodrome that he creates a rift in the space-time continuum. Imagine if the ockey was set at 20 yards for professional darts tournaments, with Phil Taylor pumped up on a focusing chemical that allowed him to nail treble twenty from absurd range. Rugby would be so much more savage and thrilling if the thirty men who paraded out onto the pitch were gargantuan specimens – stacked troglodytes who looked anatomically unviable. As long as the administration of the substances is safe and controlled, the formation of a culture of performance enhancing drug taking in professional sport would be a welcomed decision for both athletes and spectators alike.
It would be naïve to think that such activities do not already take place, however, with the Lance Armstrong case proving a perfect example. I have also heard stories of top-flight rugby players taking a year out after school to go on a stringent course of muscle developing steroids and hormones, so that they enter their competitive careers with an unnaturally formed bodily advantage. I think it is safe to say that with people consistently getting caught out, one can assume that the partakers are numerous and that they clearly see the drugs as a risk worth taking. I thus suggest that we wash away with the taboo, and make athleticism fairer by dropping the ban of performance enhancing chemicals. The image of Michael Phelps swimming so fast that he planes like a motorboat confirms to me furthermore why they should be introduced. Lift the bans, and observe a transformation of sport as we know it, with the outrageous and the impossible becoming exciting realities. Roll on the first one minute mile.