Feb 13, 2013

Basketballers on coke, it’s the end of sport as we know it

The very existence of drugs has sucked the life out of sport. The era of the glorious four-minute mile is drawing to a close -- although sport will stagger on because big media needs it.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


About 150 years ago: a teacher in the US cuts holes in two peach baskets, suspends them at either end of a gym, and thereby invents a new winter craze, basketball. The sport spreads across the country, spurred on by feats of incredible speed and spectacle. And no wonder, for the quintessential sport had been invented at around the same time as that other indispensible modern pleasure, refined cocaine, and the best teams were off their toot all the time. It took decades for the sport to return to its exciting early achievements.

Such white line fever was not the only encounter between drugs and sport before the Lance Armstrong era, of course. It’s obvious from a whole slew of records from the post-war Olympic years, when the East Germans and others looked like sacks of steroids. No one is innocent about what’s gone on for decades, but with the series of Australian doping scandals coming on top of the Armstrong mega-scandal, some line has been crossed.

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9 thoughts on “Basketballers on coke, it’s the end of sport as we know it

  1. Dogs breakfast

    “The trouble is, however, that the very existence of such drugs sucks the life out of sport anyhow.”

    True enough. I feel the same way about technology. For mine, swimming lost all credibility when a thousand new world records were created by previously average swimmers in brand new body suits. Why won’t they just expunge those records, dammit.

    I love the professionalism, in one sense, and will watch that on TV, but nothing will bring back the old days of watching the mighty St George Dragons at Jubilee Oval from the hill.

    That communal aspect of which you speak is real, and it certainly left the building, along with Elvis, some time ago for me.

  2. Microseris

    Sport was originally about the participation for competition, fun and exercise. Now its a diversion for the masses, bread and circuses. One team of employees playing another for the title/premiership/medal. It means nothing. Your team wins one year, the next its back to square one. Media spruike it and analyse the minutiae endlessly like it matters.

    Meanwhile the attention of the masses is diverted and the real problems of the world fester.

  3. michael r james

    As it happens I came across the following (below); different species and different era but similar points. (I’ll post later who the source/author is.)

    [On this evening I was thinking these wholesome but not original thoughts and feeling extraordinarily virtuous because I had worked well and hard on a day when I had wanted to go out to the races very badly. But at this time I could not afford to go to the races, even though there was money to be made there if you worked at it. It was before the days of saliva tests and other methods of detecting artificially encouraged horses and doping was very extensively practiced. But handicapping beasts that are receiving stimulants, and detecting the symptoms in the paddock and acting on your perceptions, which sometimes bordered on the extrasensory, then backing them with money you cannot afford to lose, is not the way for a young man supporting a wife and child to get ahead in the full-time job of learning to write prose.]

  4. kerneels

    There is the other side of medical / chemical interference to consider, of course. I have a distant young cousin who was born with malformed feet. He was quite unable to walk until his legs were amputated below the knee and prostheses fitted. Naturally sporty and determined, he had no intention of not doing what everyone else seems capable of, so learnt to cope with his disability.
    He did better than that. He made a name for himself as an Olympic athlete and we are all very proud of him. Without the ‘interference’ in his natural abilities he would not have achieved any of it.

  5. michael r james

    The author I cited at 5.29pm above, continues:

    [By any standards we were still very poor and I still made such small economies as saying that I had been asked out for lunch and then spending two hours walking in the Luxembourg gardens and coming back to describe the marvelous lunch to my wife. When you are twenty-five and a natural heavyweight, missing a meal makes you very hungry. But it also sharpens all of your perceptions, and I found that many of the people I wrote about had very strong appetites and a great taste and desire for food, and most of them were looking forward to having a drink.]

    Of course it was the young Hemingway on his first stay in Paris, circa 1922, though it was not published (posthumously) until 1964 in A Moveable Feast. He had been writing for a Toronto newspaper to survive in Paris but the threw it in because it was too distracting from his aim to become a writer, hence his relative poverty.

    Oh, and I think I read that Hem picked up a taste for horsemeat.

  6. MJPC

    Whilst I am no sports fan of any code, I have to agree with Dogs B and Microseris. Whilst a passing interest in the Olympics may have engendered a look last year, the total unfairness of the whole fiasco dissuaded me.
    I agree about the suits, rich countries thumbing their noses at the third world, whose athletes attended for national pride (and at a great cost, often their own $).
    What chance did thay have against technology, but they tried. What ever happened to the level playing field?
    Yes, sport is now a circus. When they introduced betting they introduced crime with all it’s many tentacles (drug use, corruption, match fixing).
    The mindless masses will still follow the teams somehow believing a win was achieved fairly, and managing authorities will reap the sponsorships, and sponsors will still be found because capitalism lacks morals or ethics.

  7. Christopher Nagle

    It seems to me that sport has become a totalitarian expression of corporate and consumer extremism that is now so entrenched it seems ‘normal’. Sport is simply an expression of a radical benchmark shifting process, of constantly increasing productivity and commitment to keep abreast of the ever increasing pace and perturbation of staying afloat. The weaker are drowned in the waters of discontent and the stronger are drowned by the absurd weight of mountenous rewards

  8. Hominoid

    Not just a report of a rort in sport. Always appreciate your insights, Guy. Thanks

  9. Amark

    I think drugs in traditional sports is one of the reasons why there has been a surge of popularity in new Xtreme(!) sports.

    I watched a double backflip on a motorbike the other day – there is you modern day 4 minute mile

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