They call themselves the ‘Final Five’, and they are awesome at gymnastics. They’ve won thirteen medals in Rio, including the gold in the team competition. They’re heroes to millions of young women in the USA and the world, and they have beaming personalities to boot. They’re a marketing firm’s dream, advertisers are drooling over the possibilities. But are they also taking PEDs?
Don’t tell me the thought hadn’t crossed your mind too. One look at Simone Biles ought to make you at least entertain the idea.
Let me make clear that I have no problem with the taking of performance enhancing drugs to, well, enhance one’s athletic performance. PEDs are nothing new to the Olympics and are positively ingrained in the culture of most, if not all, of our professional sports.
Major league baseball had the most notorious bout with steroids and other PED use by its players a decade and a half ago. I expect football players to use some sort of chemical assistance simply to stay on the field, never mind enhance their performance. I’m only shocked by their inability to avoid detection. I assume the athletes are ahead of the testers technologically, since the tests are designed in response to the presence of particular substances.
The Olympics have a long history of PEDs being used to gain an edge, going back as far as 1904 when Thomas Hicks, an American marathoner, was given strychnine and brandy by his coaches to improve his stamina. My, how the times have changed.
However, it wasn’t until 1967 that the IOC banned the use of PEDs and began testing. The first athlete to test positive was Hans-Gunnar Liljenwall, a Swedish athlete at the 1968 summer games. He got popped for alcohol – yes, alcohol. My, how the times have changed.
Perhaps the most comprehensive and organized use of PEDs was perpetrated by the East German teams of the 1970s and ’80s. In the 1990s, after the fall of the iron curtain, many documents were found detailing the systematic use of blood doping and steroids by East German Olympians, female swimmers in particular.
The most famous PED bust has to be Ben Johnson from the 1988 Seoul games. Johnson set a world record in the 100 meter, 9.79, besting Carl Lewis for the gold, but was subsequently stripped of the medal when his positive steroid test was revealed.
Lest we cast aspersions, the United States has had its share of Olympic PED violators: Mary Decker-Slaney in the 1996 games; track and field star, Marion Jones in 2000; Tyler Hamilton and Lance Armstrong were stripped of gold medals in cycling this century: Tyson Gay, the sprinter, was busted in London just four short years ago: and let’s not forget Justin Gatlin, also a sprinter, tested positive twice, once in 2001 and again in 2006.
One thing all of these athletes have in common is the positive test for one PED or another, but they also fail the ever-precarious ‘eye-test’ – they all look as if they are on the juice. Female athletes that have overly masculine visual attributes, men with obscenely bulging muscles and swollen heads, literally. They don’t look natural – they fail the eye test.
Now I am fully aware of how dangerous the waters I am wading into are. Accusing a human being of cheating the rules of their sport simply by how they appear can be a foolish exercise – some people just look different naturally. I understand this, and I am taking a risk as I go further with this, but I am willing to because I am confident in my ability to administer the eye test.
For example, as a huge (pun not intended) baseball fan, I lived and died with the juiced up sluggers and pitchers of baseball’s steroid era. Barry Bonds, admitted user, looked unnaturally big. Alex Rodriguez went from a skinny kid with the Seattle Mariners to a big slugger with the Yankees, admitted user. Mark McGwire, monster head and shoulders, an admitted user. Roger Clemens, overweight and ineffective in his final years with the Red Sox, fit, muscular and awesome with the Blue Jays and Yankees, not an admitted user but guilty in public opinion and gobs of circumstantial evidence.
I could go on, but my point is made. If it barks like dog, smells like dog, and looks like a dog, guess what – it’s a dog.
If I look at a person and they don’t look natural, if their muscles bulge out of proportion with the rest of their body, if they don’t look right, my experience has been that they are not natural. They take a chemical or two or three that promote the growth of their muscle mass.
The eye test has never failed me, and I don’t think it’s failing me now.
When I look at Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and Laurie Hernandez, I see young women who are unnaturally built up in their muscle mass around the shoulders, arms and legs.
Take another look at the pictures I’ve included and come to your own conclusion. But don’t be blinded by patriotism, or an ignorant belief that young women so likable and so worthy of our respect and admiration would never cheat the rules.
In the 21st century, to compete and excel one has to be willing to take PEDs, if not one can’t win. And that is what they are in Rio to do, win.
What I find so odd about this realization, that some if not all of these women are on PEDs, is that female gymnasts have never been big and muscular. Hasn’t it always been the tiny girls who compete in the gymnastics events? The little waif-like things that are so light they can fly through the air and practically defy gravity.
Remember Nadia Comaneci – tiny. Mary Lou Retton – a small, sturdy woman, but by no means muscular. Shannon Miller, strong and athletic, but not carrying bulging biceps, traps, and delts worthy of an NFL running back.
Wasn’t it just eight years ago during the Beijing Olympics that the Chinese female gymnasts were accused of being too small? Did we not think these tiny girls were so small because, in fact, they were too young? Chinese officials had to produce passports to prove several of their gymnasts were at least 16, the minimum age to compete.
I’ll repeat it once more, my how the times have changed.
Today’s top female gymnasts are on the USA team, and they are doing exactly what they need to do to compete and win in today’s games – taking PEDs.
I do not care one way or another, I’m not invested morally in PED use. But I worry about what the ramifications could be if one of these role models does test positive. Imagine the scandal! Forget about the hero-worship, the admiration of men and women world-wide. No longer will the Final Five be celebrated as it is today. The gold medals will be stripped, and the life-long ability to earn a living off of those medals will be
greatly diminished if not eliminated.
I know what my eyes see, and I am perfectly fine
with it. The problem is that much of the rest of the world won’t be.
Keep your fingers crossed that none of the Final Five ever test positive, the fallout will be devastating.
Follow me on Twitter @Jdanker22.