It seems like drugs are the only reason that Track and Field is in the news anymore. No meet results or reports of eye popping times turn up in the papers, just who the latest athlete is who tested positive for drugs.
I’ve gotten a couple e-mails and IM’s from people asking me about my opinion of how bad drugs are in our sport, as if I’d give them some magical insight into the issue. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) up to this point I haven’t competed at a level high enough to be fully immersed in the elite track and field culture. So don’t expect any new revelations from my blog, but I’ve been lucky enough to compete on the fringe of that level and be connected with some athletes, coaches, trainers, etc. who have been around the top level circuit. Below are a couple of incidents that stand out in my memory (names withheld for obvious reasons):
Throughout most of HS I was pretty naive about the whole drug/steroids thing. I knew they existed but it wasn’t close enough to home to really hit me. Sure as I progressed from a small freshman totally unaware of drugs, I’d heard the normal rumors of HS football players taking a little something “extra” for their performance. I didn’t think much of it though as there wasn’t much talk about what it was or anything like that. That all started to change as I progressed through the sport to a higher level. My outlook on sports being a clean utopia where the people who trained hardest were the ones who made it slowly began to crack. I can still remember the first time it home.
I was 17 or 18 at the time when I one of my friends dad started talking to me about track and field in the old days. I was only half paying attention and responding with the odd “oh really” thrown in there to be polite and create the illusion that I was interested. Then he threw out a couple of names I knew that caught my attention. I thought to myself that this guy must actually have a clue about track which was rare to hear, especially from someones dad. Then he threw out the word. The word that immediately switched all of my attention to him and made me sort of scared of him at the same time. At first I wasn’t sure if I heard him correctly, but sadly I had. For the first time I’d heard someone say “steroids” and “I took them” in the same sentance. With me in a state of shock, he then proceeded to rattle off a couple of other guys who took them, some names I definately recognized, some I had no clue, like it was no big deal. Of course he added the “It wasn’t illegal back then. We didn’t know much about them, just that they helped our performance. So everyone did it without feeling guilty.” With that, my idealistic notion of track had taken a big blow.
Following this incident, I became more inquisitive and began to ask questions. My view of track and sports in general as a generally clean sport would slowly fade, almost deppressingly so.