Even the Olympics aren’t everything

Track and field as a serious doping problem.

Unless you live under a rock, you know that.

I was reading Bonnie D. Ford’s ESPN column about the struggles the World Anti-Doping Agency, the International Olympic Committee and International Association of Athletics Federations have had, especially with Russia and Kenya. Russia ran a sophisticated, state-sponsored doping program at world championships and multiple Olympic games. Kenya’s out-of-competition testing was so poor, two-time winner of the Boston and Chicago Marathon Rita Jeptoo was at the top of her game for two years before she didn’t get caught. She’s not really a winner. She’s a cheat.

Now, athletes in all sports are concerned about the 2016 Games in Rio.

Many know it won’t be a fair fight. The clean athletes who work hard and honestly will head into the ring and onto the track against people who use sophisticated and illegal techniques to improve themselves. This is everything the Games are not about.

Bonnie’s column was, for me, a reminder that even the Olympics aren’t everything.

Sure, it’s easy for me to say. I’m a 3:53 marathoner who has never had enough talent to make the Olympics. I’m happy to win the occasional duathlon or age group in a small race.

Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE THE OLYMPICS. I love the ideals, the magic. I love hearing NBC’s tune that signals “This is about the Olympics!” I love the Olympic torches, the rings

I get why the Olympics are such a big deal. Athletes dream of competing in the Olympics from childhood. They stand to benefit financially from competing in the Olympics. And they earned the right to compete among the best athletes in the world. How many of us could even realistically dream of such a chance? A tiny fraction of us.

I don’t write this to discount the Olympic Games. I write this to remind us all that the Olympics are not the end all, be all of sports or life. Neither is the Super Bowl, or the World Series or even the Boston Marathon. Success is not related to only one event; success is what we make of it. Some incredible athletes never compete at the Olympics, or don’t compete well there. Lauren Fleshman hasn’t made the team because of horribly-timed injuries. Chris Solinsky, the first non-African man to break 27 minutes in the 10,000 retired without making a team. One of the all-time greats Paula Radcliffe, never competed up to her potential at the Olympics. You cannot discount their fantastic careers because of a lack of Olympic rings on the resume, or the lack of a medal.

I write this because it is going to be difficult for me to watch the Olympics because I know the Games aren’t fair. The Games are NOT what they are supposed to be.

I don’t write this to surrender to dopers and cheaters. Doping is horrendous, and I know it’s a losing battle. But we can fight to keep evil at bay, as Dumbledore taught a generation. We can keep standing up for what’s right.

The thing is humans–fallible, imperfect, greedy humans–are the ones organizing the Games. Someone can and will cheat to make a buck. Or millions. Someone won’t ensure the water quality is acceptable because it’s cheaper and easier and the athletes will compete anyway, and they should just be grateful to be there in the first place. Someone will take financial advantage of these athletes by not giving them much money in sponsorships and prize money because they will compete anyway, and they should just be grateful to be there in the first place and isn’t it an honor to compete for your country anyway? When greedy, fallible humans are involved, the event is imperfect.

I’ve wanted to hold the Olympics to a higher standard, but that will only end in disappointment. This summer, I’ll tune in, I’ll cheer, I’ll cry. The drama of the Games will inevitably pull me in. But I will watch it all with a grain of salt.

I’ll remember, at the end of the day, the Olympics are wonderful, but not everything.

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2 thoughts on “Even the Olympics aren’t everything

  1. I share your conflicted feels about the Olympics. I love them, I watch them every year, but the reason I love them is because I appreciate that for two weeks the whole world comes together in celebration of the common language of sport and the athletes who take part in it. We don’t have much else to unite us as a planet. It’s a love I have in spite of all the other cluster-fuckery that goes on at the Olympics. I keep waiting for the day when I’ll no longer care, when my disgust at the cheating and the money-grubbing and the human-rights grotesqueries outweighs my desire to connect in this one way with all of the other human beings on the planet. (Of course, there’s a part of me that thinks that’s exactly what TPTB are capitalizing on, that yearning for global connection that usually goes unsatiated, and the belief that most of us will look the other way on some really heinous things in order to fulfill that desire even for a short period of time.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s exactly the same as the World Cup. People love it in spite of the insanity of FIFA.
      When I watch the Olympics, I think of the athletes who are clean and who do things the right way. They ARE out there and deserve our support through all the challenges.

      Liked by 1 person

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