The Drug Olympics: a strange solution to international doping scandals

Appeared on therooster.com on January 16, 2019

by Juan Wilder


Doping scandals are hot right now. No matter what sport you look at, no matter which world-class competition you consider, performance enhancing drug usage seems to be on the rise.

And it’s ruffling a lot of feathers in the athletic world — particularly in the Olympics.  

As well it should. Competitions like the Olympics are supposed to represent hard work, determination, dedication, integrity and spirit. They are a showcase for what human beings can physically accomplish if they set their minds and hearts to it. They act as a source of inspiration for people everywhere, kindling dreams and cultivating ambitions all over the world…  

That is, if we’re watching athletes compete and not drugs. As soon as drugs are introduced into the equation, it becomes something else entirely, a different kind of competition — one that is still highly entertaining, even if it isn’t quite so motivational.

One that, in my opinion, should have its own category: The Drug Olympics. Games without substance standards, where any and every drug is fair game for athlete consumption. 

Because, here’s the problem: doping is so widespread in the Olympics (and among other international competitions like the Tour de France) that it will be all but impossible to squelch the practice. People are getting very clever with their doping schemes, constantly creating new, undetectable performance enhancing chemicals and new ways to conceal their presence in an athlete’s system. Of course, our testing methods are evolving too, but they are always one step behind the dope-tech, always fighting to keep up with the times. 

As evidenced by the elaborate doping system the Russians got busted for in 2016. They had an entire team of people dedicated to doping their athletes, a group of anti-doping experts, members of the intelligence service, and other players who all helped pull the conspiracy off. It was a massive operation.

And according to Thomas Hildebrandt, a performance-enhancement researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, the Ruskies probably aren’t the only ones doing that.

“I think we have to assume that the Russians got caught but other programs are doing similar things.” Hildebrandt told Live Science. “And I think it would be foolish of anyone to think otherwise. 

When a nation’s glory is on the line, many athletes will do whatever it takes to win — even if that means cheating. And many coaches will too, hiring chemists whose sole job it is to pump their people up in preparation for the competition.

People are going to dope. There seems to be no stopping it. So why not let them?

What I am suggesting is simple (if a little unrealistic): keep the regular Olympic Games. Maintain their integrity, and continue to test those athletes for drugs, continue to send chemical cheaters home. But additionally, host a second Olympics — the Drug Olympics — games for athletes pumped so full of performance enhancing drugs they are edging into superhuman territory.

You want to take all the steroids in the world and go crush weight lifting records? Be my guest. In fact, here’s a list of the most powerful roids available and where to get them. You want to do a bunch of cocaine and go compete in the pentathlon? Don’t forget to drink a lot of water. Did your coach just suggest you smoke some PCP before your next Judo match? Have fun, I guess — just try not to kill the guy.  

The entertainment value for such a competition would well surpass that of the “Sober Olympics.” Madness, incoherence, goliath feats of athleticism and the occasional overdose would all blend together in a bizarre spectacle of modern sportsmanship.  

Yes, it would be ugly. Yes, there would probably be a lot of injuries and health issues to deal with. And sure, maybe it would send a somewhat twisted message to our youth. But people would watch it nevertheless. People wouldn’t be able to look away.  

The Drug Olympics would be fascinating. And more than likely, they would also yield a lot of scientific and medical research. The variety of studies you could run on athletes being chemically super-boosted to the ceiling of physical potential is untold. Who knows what kinds of useful information might be garnered from doping people into space? 

And, of course, the regular Olympics would still proceed as normal. Those athletes that chose to compete sober, who chose to compete honorably by the power of their own will and personal ability, would still be able to do so. Parents who don’t want their kids watching a bunch of strung-out roided-up monsters competing, could still direct their kids to the normal games. We wouldn’t have to sacrifice anything — except for maybe a little moral merit.

Would there be fewer instances of nations cheating in the regular Sober Olympic Games, if we also held the Drug Olympics? Would it create a distinction that people would respect, a line in the sand that athletes and coaches wouldn’t cross? Could this level the playing field?

That would be the hope. But, realistically, probably not. Cheating in the Olympics isn’t like cheating in a relationship — Olympic dopers aren’t doing this just for the thrill; they aren’t doping just to get their rocks off. They’re doing it to win. They’re doing it to earn the most prestigious gold medal on Earth.

So, maybe we would still have issues with people trying to dope in the Sober Olympics. Maybe these Drug Olympics wouldn’t help to mitigate that issue, after all. The argument could even be made, that this system would make matters worse, instead of better, as coaches and scientists developed more creative, unique and undetectable ways to chemically enhance their athletes…

They would be fun as hell to watch, though.

And the Drug Olympics would also satisfy a lot of curiosity, on top of their entertainment value. We already have a pretty good idea for what people are physically capable of without chemical amplification. Why not push the envelope? Why not put the chemically magnified abilities of our species to the test too?

Will Brendza