Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Steroid Nation

The story of 2007 for the U.S. was not the sub-prime melt down, nor the U.S. presidential race, heck it wasn't even the surge in Iraq. The story of 2007 was how the United States replaced East Germany as Steroid Nation.

It's all about winning. Not competition really, but winning. Winning at all costs, even if it means cheating. We're Number 1, We're Number 1 is the mantra. And the cheating through steroids, human growth hormone, testosterone, etc. is merely a reflection of a culture of cheating that is the moral economy of American culture.

Enron, Worldcom, the economic scandals of the boom economy where tax evasion is considered a good thing, a fine thing, screw the IRS, which led to the accounting scandals that brought down some of America's corporate giants. Like the doping scandals, tax avoidance and accounting manipulation over stock prices, back dating stock, all these schemes are based on the idea that everyone is doing it.
Illegal doping recognizes no national boundaries. It is an inevitable offshoot of a system that stresses winning at all costs, invading every sport, entangling amateur and pro alike. The conviction that everyone else is using these illegal performance-enhancing substances creates a vicious cycle.

That is why Conrad Black wants to become an American, he fits into that mold quite well.And by the time he finishes his jail sentence he will have enough time in to become one.

Whereas in Canada we are embarrassed by such cheating. We denounce it, and those who do it. Look at how we sacrificed Ben Johnson on the altar of good sportsmanship. And we did it promptly. While in America they wait and wait until the inevitable leak reveals that their Olympic medals were won through cheating.

In 2000, Dr. Wade Exum unveiled one of the biggest doping cover-ups in sports history when he released a list of 19 American medalists who were allowed to compete in various Olympic Games from 1988 to 2000 despite having failed earlier drug tests. The list also helped to stir up an old controversy. Track and field star Carl Lewis, who was named on Exum’s list, won the gold medal in the 100M event at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games because his opponent Ben Johnson was disqualified from the event due to steroid use. Johnson was not too happy to see Lewis’ name on the new list, to say the least.

And by then it is too late, the damage is done. They only admit after the records are broken. Making those records is all important. Making record breaking profits, Olympic medal records, baseball home run records, the Tour de France, etc. once made they can never be expunged from the popular record. Even though they were made by cheating.

The cheater may be defrocked but his or her record stands. And that is all that counts. Winner takes all.And America is all about winning. They can say only dopes use dope, but they cheer them on all the same.

The company may have gone bankrupt but the CEO gets golden parachutes and hired again. Unless they go to jail to make an example that the 'system works'. And the defrocked corporate cheaters like Millikan or Martha Stewart get out of jail eventually and once again are embraced by their old pals.

Steroids and Corporate Greed share a common morality, a common set of values, that truly reflect the American cultural psyche far more than any claim to family values or Christian morals. And after all professional sports is a business.

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