Open Mic: Ben Johnson, I Hate You
Everything good about sports has, to an extent, been tainted.
The stories passed down to us by our parents of the great athletes of their generation, which make the athletes seem sublime have a certain allure to them. It is a shame that the stories we will tell our kids about the great athletes of our generation will have many questions associated with them.
I feel as though the first real time doping came into the public lexicon was during the 1988 Seoul Games when Canada's own (well...shared with Jamaica) Ben Johnson shocked the world by setting the world record in the Games' showcase event, the 100 m. I was too young to remember any of this, but that race sort of paved the way for a strong tradition. The breaking of world records on the track, followed by those athletes being stripped of their medals.
Now I consider myself a blind believer who is void of cynicism and gets sucked in by every "good" thing about sports. So I cannot tell you how much I HATE dopers. I truly believe that Usain Bolt is clean and that his performance is one of the greatest things I've ever seen at the Olympics. But, there are now always questions as to how he is breaking world records, and winning with such ease. The same goes for Dara Torres who is 41, but managed to make the USA swimming team. These are great stories, and these things can happen without the use of performance enhancing drugs, but because we have been betrayed by our heroes in the past, whispers grow about how there must be some "help."
The great stories from these Games could in fact be done by those who are cheating, which once again emphasizes my hatred for dopers. They hook us in and make us remember why we love sports, only to rip our collective hearts out.
I won't even discuss pro sports, but looking at the Tour de France, nobody can win cleanly anymore. Thanks to every other doper in the past (and there are too many to mention), it is widely assumed that the majority of the riders, let alone those who finish at the top have a fishy smell to them. I love Lance Armstrong (remember what I said about the lack of cynicism), and I think he is the greatest athlete of all time, but although he has not failed a drug test, he is constantly under suspicion and his 7 wins in a row will never truly be accepted world wide.
Back to the Olympics, there is nothing more unfair in these games than to have a doper take the place of a clean athlete on the podium, let alone in the gold medal position, an ending place in many people's dreams. Let me explain again why I hate dopers. In 2000 Caroline Brunet was Canada's flag bearer and was unbeatable going into the Olympics in the flatwater 500 m kayak race. When she cruised to the finals it was expected that she would bring home the gold, but she finished second to Josefa Idem Guerrini from Italy. It was discovered after the race though, that Idem Guerrini was allowed to compete even though she had high levels of HGH in her system thanks to a blood test taken by the Italian NOC. She did not fail a test at the Sydney Games, but there was no test for HGH that did not involve a blood sample, something they do not do. The Italian NOC let this doper compete, win, and steal a once in a lifetime opportunity from Caroline Brunet.
Two years later in Salt Lake City, Beckie Scott won an unlikely bronze medal in the 10 km pursuit cross-country skiing race, as Canada had never won a medal in cross-country skiing. She finished behind two Russians by the names of Olga Danilova and Larissa Lazutina, but soon it was discovered that these two athletes failed doping tests and were disqualified in 2004 and 2003 respectively. There are great stories at the Olympics, but few come close to the athletes that have little shot at the podium who go on to actually win the gold medal. It was amazing that Beckie Scott won the bronze, but she had the gold medal experience robbed from her and instead had a makeshift ceremony where they presented her with the gold and played Oh Canada. Not even close to what she could have experienced at the ceremony put on in the athlete's plaza.
Now I know dopers make sports in a way more fun to watch as they consistently break records and put on great shows, but if you ask me, I would rather people run an 11 second 100 m or swim a 45 second lap of the pool as long as everyone is clean. That way when someone does what Bolt has done at these games, it is an extraordinary event that turns into a "where-were-you-when" moment and something that we can be proud to tell our children.
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