Olympics: Add drugs,
remove jingoism

By Doug Casey

The idea of the Olympics is great. But there are at least two aspects of the event that should be modified.

First is the fact that the athletes are all there as representatives of their nation states, not as individuals, even though athletic competition is something that occurs strictly between individuals or, at most, small teams. What does, or should, that have to do with politics? The answer is, nothing. Personally, I like to support the athletes that I find most appealing, regardless of what government’s passport they have in their pockets. It’s disgusting that the games are so often used as an opportunity to rally the masses in jingoism.

The 2004 games weren’t bad in that respect – nothing could top Hitler’s 1936 games or some of the contests during the Cold War in that regard. Especially the 1980 games, when Jimmy Carter shamefully forced American athletes to withdraw, after years of preparation, to give weight to one of his fatuous political conceits.

What should be done? The Games should be privately organized, open to the best athletes in the world, regardless of their nationality. Politics don’t belong on the playing field. Or, really, anywhere else between people of good will; but that’s another subject.

Second is the hysteria about drug use among athletes. Drugs serve several basic purposes: to reduce pain, to give pleasure, or to enhance health or performance. Often the lines are blurred among these purposes and effects. How do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line between natural substances that occur in foods, drugs that are necessary for a medical condition, or some prohibited substance that an athlete might have been accidentally exposed to? And who has the right to draw the line? Caffeine (as in coffee) is a performance enhancer, but it’s legal; cannabinols (as in marijuana) are not, but they’re illegal. It’s all arbitrary, hypocritical and destructive.

These rules are as stupid as would be rules saying all athletes must eat the same diets to level the playing field between those from rich countries and poor ones. Or as stupid as the recently dropped prohibition against professional athletes competing in the Olympics. Lots of improvements have been allowed in equipment and clothing over the years. Why not improvements available from drugs as well?

In any event, it’s not a technical issue; it’s an ethical one. Athletes own their own bodies; it’s their right to do whatever they can to enhance performance.

It’s shameful to see the careers of great athletes ruined simply because they were trying to be all that they can be. If any compromises are to be made, there ought to be two classes: Standard and Open. Athletes could compete in either or both. It would make for a hell of a show. And a much more honest one.