Pure sport

One of the questions often raised by visitors to this site and by those who know me or who meet me for the first time: why compete if everyone is cheating?

It’s a good question. In triathlon, for example, it’s rather deflating (and aggravating) when you’re giving all you’ve got only for some pudgy guy to fly past you like you’re not even moving, and it’s so completely ridiculous that you want to scream blue murder and pull out of the race altogether. Or, you give all you’ve got and do a great time, and when you hit the finish line, the guys who finished at the front are already showered and packing up their gear, having somehow gone as fast as pros despite their ages and physical limitations.

People who cheat take the fun out of sport. Not only that, they take the purity out of it as well. And by purity, I don’t just mean being clean of PEDs. I mean that sport offers moments of transcendence: pushing beyond your limits (without chemical help), completing an action or skill so sublimely that you feel momentarily like a god, or achieving something you never thought possible of yourself.

Because nothing beats the motivation-hard work-reward high of sport. Succeeding via PED help or taking other short cuts won’t result in the same kind of sensation. It’s an empty reward, a bogus one, and with it comes no feeling of transcendence. If anything, the overwhelming feeling would be guilt.

Which brings me to answering the above question. Why compete? For the pure enjoyment of sport. “For the love of the game” does sound like a trite cliché, but it rings true.That love will allow you to look the other way when the pudgy guy passes you on the run and keep giving your all, and to feel great about your time and performance even though the winners are already packing their bikes into their cars. Because sport offers moments of purity. They may be short, they may be rare, but such moments remind you of all the reasons you train and compete and invest your time.

Being a purathelete means much more than competing clean. It’s about having a certain appreciation of and love for sport. Not for results and ribbons and medals and honours. You compete because you love competing, because sport can transport you, however briefly, beyond this time and place.

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