Since this blog began, I’ve received numerous questions regarding drugs and amateur sports. The main question is: why? Why would an amateur athlete take drugs, risking their health, when there is absolutely nothing to gain. There’s no prizemoney, no sponsorship deals, not even any real accolades. Wow, you were two minutes faster than last year: big deal.
The best answer I can offer – because I don’t know what moves the hearts and minds of those amateur athletes who take courses of vitamin D – is vanity. And it reminds me of that locker room scene in ‘The Wrestler’ where Mickey Rourke’s character (if ever there was a poster boy for the impact of performance enhancing drugs, the Ram is it) buys a cocktail of drugs from a pumped-up pusher who, under the Ram’s urging, puts his bag of goodies aside to flex and show his cannons. The Wrestler is making his crumpet from his time in the theatrical ring, but his motivation for taking drugs has as much to do with vanity. With the drug-dealer’s biceps, it’s all vanity (and probably a fair bit of compensating).
Applied to amateur triathlons, the vanity comes from training hard and racing fast; winning some small village race where a handful of people clap you to the finish line and you stand on a dais made of chipboard as they hang a ten-cent medal around your neck and you can think of yourself as king of this very tiny world; while in the back of your mind you know full well it was the vitamin D that got you there; and you also know that your vanity is rather shameful.
There could also be the vanity that comes not from fast times, but from victory. A bit like: if you can’t beat them, join them so you can beat them, or at the very least compete with them. (Cue the Tour de France analogy.) And, the drug-taker says, while we’re talking about victory, please look at the trophies on my wall, the photos of me hitting the line first and drinking from the big glass of beer. Admire my cups made of tin, my ribbons and medals and finisher shirts. But please don’t look in my trash.
Then there’s the physical vanity. Testosterone and HGH and what-ever-the-latest-generic-crap-you-can-buy-online will make you look younger, leaner and more muscular. That’s not so unlike the emails I get promising that I can be harder for longer. Just the kind of thing that might appeal to men in their 30s, 40s and 50s who are determined to hang onto their youth, or at least get back their youthful feelings. So ramp up the T and give yourself the equivalent hormonal juices of a 16 year-old, and win a triathlon when you’re 46. Good for you. You’re so vain.
So, thanks for all the questions so far. This blog has been, for me, I kind of purging of my demons. I’m feeling much better about racing and playing sport now than I did a year ago. If amateur athletes want to take vitamin D and be vain winners, so be it. I’ve reached acceptance: I can’t stop them from taking drugs, I’ll never beat them, and I’ll never ever win a triathlon, and there’s a good chance I’ll finish last at the Age Group Champs in London.
I’m out there training and racing for the love of it, and I’m enjoying the races much more than I have in the past.