by Maria Schulz
During the end of July into the first couple of weeks of August, the 2012 London Olympics transfixed me. I loved watching the athletes from every country going all out to win gold, silver or bronze at this once-every-four-years event.
Beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, track and field, gymnastics, swimming, diving, basketball—you name it, I probably watched some of it. It made me wish for just a second that I could master that kind of dedication and work ethic. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to jump high, run fast, and swim like lightning?
Then, of course, the reports of doping started to roll in.
The London 2012 Olympics ended a short time ago, but it got me to thinking about drugs, athletes, and whether or not we should ban drug users from actively participating in sports.
If you’re interested in an intelligent discussion of this topic, you can go here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/08/07/should-doping-be-allowed-in-sports
For a less intelligent discussion of this topic, continue reading.
The opening and closing ceremonies were what I imagine it’s like to watch someone tripping on LSD. Let me just say that I love the British people and their sense of humor. But even I was a little amazed (and slightly disturbed) by the surreal quality of the ceremonies that the producers of the events say “defined” them.
There was the Mary Poppins brigade raining down from the sky to fight a giant, insanely smiling Voldemort; The Queen of England looking tired, fidgety and bored out of her mind; Eric Idle singing “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” while Roman centurions danced alongside him; and a Freddie Mercury-free rendition of “We Are the Champions” with Queen and Jessie J.
If that wasn’t a clear and clever way to say, “yes, we think everyone should be on drugs—including the athletes!” I don’t know what is.
I am not a proponent of drugs, cheaters or liars. I think cheaters are terrible, loathsome creatures and, apparently, much smarter than me. I could never lie or cheat at something so high-stakes without getting caught.
I learned this the hard way in the 5th grade. On beautiful, sunshine filled days, I did the most athletic thing I would ever do: I jumped off the line as my class headed downstairs, ran upstairs past the signs that said: “DO NOT ENTER,” and climbed through the window that led to the roof.
Once out there, I sat and stared at the New York City skyline (I was exhausted from all that running, jumping and climbing). If I faced west, I could see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, the Pan Am Building and the Twin Towers.
If I turned east, I could look at my parents’ house and watch all of my neighbors as they walked around the neighborhood. I would imagine what they were up to and create stories about their lives that would rival any soap opera story line.
I would sit there for a few minutes, with the sun on my face, breathing in and out and reveling in the quiet. I would daydream about that big, scary, far-away future when I would be a grown up, and start thinking about what I hoped I was missing in my classroom. Finally, guilt and fear led me back down the stairs to my class.
Of course, the mistake I eventually made was letting others see me jump off the line and head up the staircase. Soon, I had company following me up to the roof. When six other people climbed those stairs with me, I sensed trouble.
Those kids barreled up the stairs like monkeys on crack and then completely lost their nerve when we came to the window that led to the roof. I went out alone and spent a moment or two there, but I came back in when I heard the others whooping and yelling just as another class was coming through on the landing below.
My brother Paul was in that class, and I saw the look of utter shock when I came down those stairs. I wasn’t supposed to do those sorts of things! At the very least, I wasn’t supposed to get caught doing them!
I could’ve jumped onto that line and blended in with the class, but my stupid classmates panicked, started screaming, and ran back up the stairs. They were so loud the teacher looked up and saw us all standing on the landing above.
We were marched before Sister Mary Michelle, our principal. All the saints in Heaven must have been smiling on us that day. I considered myself the luckiest girl in the world (thanks for the line, Lou Gehrig), since Sister M&M was a kind, fair and patient lady.
If Sister Clara had been my judge and jury, I would’ve probably been executed at dawn without even so much as a last meal. I think my last words would have been, “Please just shoot me! I don’t want you to box my ears anymore, Sister!”
I tried to look innocent as my classmates fumbled with perhaps the lamest excuse I had ever heard to explain why we were on the stairs leading to the roof.
“We were playing with a ball, and it somehow bounced UP THE STAIRS,” Blake said.
“Yeah! That’s what happened!” the other boys agreed.
The other girls nodded and said, “Yep, that’s right.”
“Of course, we all had to go up and get it.” Blake added.
Sister Mary Michelle looked at me. I didn’t normally hang around with this crew of Mensa-rejects, and she knew it. So she figured I was there for some other reason then playing ball on the stairwell.
Sister M&M sensed that someone was lying, but she couldn’t quite figure out how I fit into this puzzle. If only I had a poker face, I could’ve gone along with Blake’s story.
But I don’t have a poker face. Instead, I looked away.
“You know, of course, that I can expel you all and send you to PUBLIC SCHOOL?”
At this point in my young life, this was indeed the scariest, most gut-wrenching prospect I could possibly imagine. The very idea of leaving my little school and going off to the big bad public school was horrifying to me.
But what was even more terrifying was the thought that my mother would tell my father that I was caught on the roof and expelled.
I did what I had to do. I told the truth.
“Sister, I wasn’t playing ball. I went up to the roof to look at the skyline.”
“Maria! Do you realize that you could’ve fallen off the roof or through the ceiling and gotten killed?”
“Will you promise never to do it again?”
“Fine,” she said. “Maria, you can go. And the rest of you: don’t ever play ball in that stairwell again. Understand?”
“Sure,” “yeah,” “I mean, yes Sister,” my classmates chimed in together, as they ran out of her office and back to their classes.
I got off easy but when school ended, I ran home and told my mother what happened just in case.
My mother shook her head disapprovingly at me. “Are you crazy? What did you do that for?”
“I just like a few quiet moments between classes,” I said.
“Oh,” my mother replied. I guess that sounded reasonable to her. “Well, don’t do that anymore.”
I had to give up the rush I got by going up to the roof, and the thrill of getting away with something I wasn’t supposed to do. It made me feel immortal and smart. So, I kind of understand why the athletes turn to doping.
It must be amazing to have the kind of athletic ability that lets you run, jump, swim, cycle, throw, or dunk farther and faster than anyone else. As the person who was usually chosen last for most sports teams, I wouldn’t know about that. But I can see why someone who is used to being the best at something—and thinks they’re too smart to get caught—might be tempted to do it.
Take, for instance, Lance Armstrong: celebrated cyclist, cancer survivor, and inspiration to people all around the world. Do we still idolize him now that we think he may have been cheating all along?
Here’s why: even with the drugs, Armstrong is probably the most talented, driven cyclist to ever walk the face of the earth. And you know what? When they void out all of his wins and hand them over to the #2 guys on the podium, in almost every case, those guys were doping too!
The fact is, he was and is an amazing athlete. Doping was rife in cycling then (and probably now). Every time they put drug controls in place, someone figures out how to get around them. When Lance Armstrong and his crew were winning all those Tours, everyone around him was cheating too.
At least he was a force for good for millions of cancer patients around the world. Do you still have your Livestrong yellow bracelet? I do.
Now, could someone like me ever beat someone like Lance? No, of course not. I guess the real question is, could someone as gifted as Lance beat him if he wasn’t taking drugs? Maybe, maybe not. I guess we’ll never know.
But what if it’s true, that everyone was taking drugs? If everyone is doing it, does that make it okay? Of course not. But there will always be cheaters and liars among us. So what do we do?
Here’s my theory: keep the cheaters and the liars out of the regular Olympics, but have a separate, all-cheaters Olympics. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “oh the things you’ll see!”
Every record will be smashed! They will have to use infrared cameras to record the lightning fast speeds of the swimmers, runners, and cyclists.
The beach volleyball teams will need extra players since they may impale one another when they spike the ball.
The track teams will move around the track so fast, their feet may catch on fire.
You won’t have to wait 5 hours for the marathoners to finish. Check back about an hour later, and the commentators will be wrapping up.
The long jump may require 75 extra feet of sand.
The shot-putters will throw so hard and so far, their arms may still be attached when the judges finally find the metal ball.
Forget about wondering if the female swimmers are really men. Now, we will wonder if they’ve been genetically cloned from dolphins, and if that bump under their suit is really a dorsal fin.
“Women” gymnasts who look like they’re about 9 years old will hoist themselves up on the uneven bars on their pinky’s and do entire balance routines on their noses!
You won’t have to wonder if certain nations are cheating. Every nation will be cheating! In fact, the more ingenious you are at cheating, the better.
This will be the kind of event where the Rosie Ruiz’s of the world can really shine. Remember her? She’s the one who “won” the Boston Marathon and came in 11th at the New York City Marathon, only to be stripped of both results when the citizens of Boston and New York came forth to rat her out.
“I saw Rosie at a café during the marathon!”
“I saw Rosie on the subway!”
“Rosie was buying pretzels from the Auntie Anne’s in Faneuil Hall when she should have been at mile 15!”
“Rosie Ruiz was on line behind me at the donut shop two blocks away from the finish line!”
Deep down inside, I know that what Rosie Ruiz did was wrong. She never ran those 26 miles and she stole something from all the other contenders who played fair and square.
But let’s be honest here…could any mere mortal ever win any marathon without jumping on the subway while chomping on Auntie Anne’s pretzels en route to the donut shop? I think not.
I have more of a chance at winning a marathon, or any sporting event, the Rosie Ruiz way then I ever would under any normal circumstances.
In the meantime, we’ll just have to wonder about the athletes who accomplish these superhuman feats of strength. Is it really the result of years of sacrifice, discipline, training, and all-the-Greek-yogurt-they-can-eat? Or is it something more sinister?
Meet me at the Dr. Seuss-Inspired Olympics, where we can forget about those worries and get Super-Juiced together! Now there’s an event that no one will remember, but everyone will look forward to in years to come.
I considered posting a juice recipe, but they were all full of spinach, kale and carrots. Here’s one that should appeal to your inner Rosie Ruiz.
So, Hungry Lifers…what’s your take on the Olympics? How do you feel about a Super-Juiced Version? Would you cheat for gold? Did you ever go on the roof of your grammar school? Please post a comment below and let us all know. Thanks!