Watching the World Championships in Athletics.

One of the good things of getting older is that you have more to remember and to look back to. No, not that things were better in the past, on  the contrary, most things were worse, much worse. But I remember watching the world championship in athletics and the Olympics in the past. I observed and listened to my friends and family who were watching the World Championships. They watched, admired, awed; they were fans, and so were most people. But now watching TV, Internet or newspaper, the only thing that is interesting is: who is taking doping and when will he/she be caught. Every good performance is considered doubtful or under scrutiny.  The same people who watched and enjoyed the World Championships before now speculate, gossip, assume, pretend to know, they have become cynical. The same thing is happening in cycling and baseball right now. Has the sport lost its innocence? No, it was never innocent to start with! If you believe that performances in former days were delivered without the use of forbidden substances, you are naive or you simply lack adequate  knowledge about this subject.  Performance-enhancing substances have been taken by athletes since the classic Greek Olympics, it’s a phenomenon that has always been there and has been universal.

And I think the only way to eradicate this issue completely, is to ban competitive sports altogether! In the future it will show that the only other option will be to lift the ban on the use of performance enhancing agents for elite athletes. I am not talking about ruthless coaches who give steroids to 13 year old girls telling them it’s vitamins; they should be imprisoned for the longest time.

The current policy of more testing, harsher punishments and more intrusions into the private life of athletes, who have to give up their basic human right to do sports, is going nowhere as we finally start to find out.  It only services the agenda of sports politicians, the media because enlarging scandals in  sports means big stories and big money and the industry that anti-doping has become. Where in most countries the support of the elite athletes is suffering from the economic recession, more and more (taxpayer’s) money is going to be wasted in testing athletes, to the extent that testing an athlete on a yearly base now costs more than his/her financial support for training, coach, travel, training camps, equipment medical support, etc. at least in Holland.

Of course I don’t make many friends saying this, but then, I have so many friends  😉  I can afford to lose the few who don’t comprehend what I am trying to say.

This is not my opinion only, but it is based on solid scientific evidence. An example: in the last century it suited some people well to ban alcohol from daily life. Alcohol was a moral evil and the people should be protected against themselves by imposing a ban on the production, sale and transportation of alcohol. The exposure to alcohol of the people lead to alcoholism, diseases related to that, aggression, unemployment. So if you ban alcohol, these social problems should be eradicated. This was one of the most famous large-scale social experements ever performed, the ‘Nobel Experiment’ as it was called.

Does this sound logical and reasonable? Yes, it did. This was the Prohibition in the USA, lasting from 1920-1932. Too bad that reality turned out to be completely different. Lots of data have been collected during that time that prove the following:

  • more alcohol per capita was consumed during the Prohibition than before, be it illegally this time.
  • home -production however could be of dangerously bad quality due to the methanol content. So  altogether more health damage was done than ever before.
  • alcohol becoming illegal opened the door to crime. Just watch the movie “The Untouchables” and  the rise of the criminals like Al Capone. And of course there was a tremendous increase of  corruption by politicians and the police, e.g. to turn a blind eye on illegal bars called speakeasies.
  • and naturally a steep rise in homicides during the Prohibition.

These graphs from the article of Mark Thornton speak for themselves.(1)

Alcohol consumption during the Prohibition (1920-1933)

Alcohol consumption during the Prohibition (1920-1933)

 

Homicide rates during the Prohibition (1920-1933)

Homicide rates during the Prohibition (1920-1933)

Not to speak of the hypocrisy of politicians who supported the ban on alcohol, but still presented alcohol on their private parties.

Of course this “war on alcohol” was doomed to be lost from the start. And a second “Noble Experiment” is running: the war on drugs. Nowhere in the world more people are imprisoned for the use or possession of cannabis than in the US, in the “war on drugs”. But did it really prevent people from smoking a joint? I doubt it.

Here is a citation from a research done comparing  San Francisco (cannabis use illegal) and Amsterdam (cannabis use legal).  “Our findings do not support claims that criminalization reduces cannabis use and that decriminalization increases cannabis use. Moreover, Dutch decriminalization does not appear to be associated with greater use of other illicit drugs relative to drug use in San Francisco, nor does criminalization in San Francisco appear to be associated with less use of other illicit drugs relative to their use in Amsterdam. Indeed, to judge from the lifetime prevalence of other illicit drug use, the reverse may be the case.” (2)

Misinformation and lies are always an integral part of the scare-tactics of these “warriors”: In July of 1998, drug czar Barry McCaffrey, on a fact-finding mission to Europe, added insult to ignorance by proclaiming to a Stockholm audience, “The murder rate in Holland (where “soft” drugs are treated as a legal product) is double that in the United States. That’s drugs.”

But actually, the American murder rate is 8.2 per 100,000. The Dutch murder rate is 1.7 per 100,000, less than one-fourth compared to the U.S.” The Dutch ambassador in the US had to correct these numbers.

So how does the war on drugs continue? Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico, ….not a positive outcome on the horizon…

And what about the “war on cancer”, our biggest killer still, only looking at numbers in the US: after spending more than 200 billion dollars since 1971 and publishing 1.6 million articles on this subject,  the amount of people dying from most cases of cancer is still the same as in 1970 or in 1950. The main improvements come from e.g. the fact that people smoke less than before, a decrease in chemical pollution and specially an early detection of cancer.

Or the “war on terrorism”, any serious improvements there? Did you count a decrease in terror attacks since 9/11?  I am not talking about the financial, social and psychological costs of this war.

Is it just the same story again, suppression of a majority based on exaggerated exceptional events, just to protect the interest of a few? No, this a not a political statement, or a need to defend my behavior, I tried half a joint once but nothing happened, I don’t smoke, drink one glass of red wine every night at dinner (mainly for health purposes), I do not support any terror groups.

But  just like I always do: look at the numbers and the patterns then look at is what lies underneath, and look at the big picture, that tells the story.

But….. will stopping the witch hunt for doping not lead to massive use of it? My question: where is the proof that this will happen. As a matter of fact: science proves the opposite: Amsterdam cannabis users are using less cannabis than cannabis users in San Francisco!

I still think of the time when I was living and working in the Middle East where alcohol is banned in most countries. And taking athletes from there to Holland and Germany for training and competitions  one young athlete asked me where all the drunk people were hiding since there should be a lot of drunk people, considering one can buy alcohol anywhere…. Is wine, or liquor  not drunk in the Middle East? At least not on paper, but even deep in the desert one can find empty perfume bottles, which puzzled me at first until I heard they were drinking it… cheers.

It is about time that sports will take control of its own case again, not being ruled by corrupt and hypocritical leaders who only take care of their own and each other’s interests. Sports should be ruled by a new generation of people with a vision of the future beyond their own interest; a vision regarding the interest of the sports, the athletes and the coaches.

Enjoy the World Championships, enjoy sport, better yet: do something.

1 Thornton, M: Alcohol prohibiton was a failure; Cato Institute Policy Analysis No.157.

2 Reinarman, C; Cohen, P.D.A; Kaal H.L:  The Limited Relevance of Drug Policy: Cannabis in Amsterdam and in San Francisco; American Journal of Public Health, May 2004, Vol. 94, No. 5, pg.836-842

About Henk Kraaijenhof

My name is Henk Kraaijenhof and I started this blog as a random collection of concepts, ideas, stories and events that are important or interesting to me in my work as an international performance consultant in a wide range of fields, and sometimes outside of my work. I will try to post a new entry every 3-4 days. Feel free to comment if you like.

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