George Ehusani is a priest of the Catholic Church in Nigeria and one of the best known writers on contemporary issues. He was quoted as saying that the meaning that humanity attaches to values and standards is in rapid decline.
In the volume one of the book edited by Emmanuel Ojeifo titled “Young people and the hunger for meaning”, Ehusani was quoted as saying thus; “It is true that we live in a post-modern age. Analytic and critical philosophies have radicalized our conception of language. A Philosopher once said that in our age, nothing seems to agree with anything else. Everything is in a flux”.
Ehusani however hazards a guess of what he views as the correct meaning that people should attach to the concept of values.
His words: “Values are for us fundamental pillars that give direction and meaning to our lives. They are the things we hold most dear, the fixed standards upon which we base our judgment of what is right and wrong or good and evil, the guiding principles for our choices and decisions, over which we organize our priorities, and in relation to which we build up our aspiration in life”.
Nowhere is this wholistic view of the meaning of standards and values accepted as the whole truth and nothing but the truth like in the world of sports whereby athletes are expected not to take any performance enhancing drugs or mechanisms with the diabolical goal of winning laurels all the times in all competitive tournaments.
In the first place, an athlete is defined simply even by the writers of the New Webster’s dictionary of the English language as “a person with the skill and training to be good at sports, especially as an individual competitor (in running jumping, throwing) rather than as one of a team.”
By the same token, Sports is defined as “the playing of games or participation in competitive pastimes involving physical exertion and skill, especially those played outdoors”.
A cheat is “someone who tricks or deceives or someone who plays a game without following the rules and/or someone who uses unfair methods to score or win unfair advantage over other competitors”.
From the above definitions partly derived from the scholarly “the New Webster’s Dictionary of the English language”, it is clear that cheats in Sports are as bad as armed robbers or other sets of bandits who wreck havocs on the unsuspecting members of the public in an attempt to gain unfair advantage.
How can one describe a sport athlete who cheats his/her contemporary(ies) so that she/he can win the gold medal say in an Olympic and other sporting tournaments which have become increasingly tough, competitive and highly financially rewarding?
Sports administrators since the advent of modern sports have expressed concern on how best to check the infiltration of competitive sports by drug cheats and the other set of gamblers who fix outcomes of sporting competitions to amass the proceeds of crime. In the United Kingdom, some Pakistani Cricket players were recently prosecuted in the judicial system for alleged fixing of matches and most of these indicted players have been banned for several years by the respective authorities in charge of these sports.
Factually, drug cheats have become increasingly desperate and sophisticated because of the huge revenue and financial profits that come through endorsements awarded to frontline sporting athletes by rich multi-national companies since the history of modern sports a little less than a century ago.
While doing random research for this thematic area of sports cheats, I came across the piece posted in a website of www.thepeoplehistory.com in which the writers rightly explained the historical facts on how modern sports became big business which to most contemporary observers like me, forms the central reason why some athletes rather than rely on their natural talents and developed skills, have chosen the easy but very expensive way of embracing the administration of performance enhancing drugs before embarking on any competitive sports.
According to the writers who posted a piece titled; “Sports: the history and evolution” on the aforementioned website, sports have become big business because; “It is also impossible to talk about modern sports without considering the heavy influence of business. Sports and business have become forever linked, even in college, which is supposedly played by “amateurs” and not “professionals”, despite the fact that the coaches and athletic directors make as much as their counterparts in the professional leagues. From sports on television to sponsorships to naming rights on stadiums, the history of the business of sports reveals that business tied itself to sports more and more in the latter half of the 20th century, really ramping up in the 1970s and onward”.
These writers tried to rationalize why money and high fees have become synonymous to modern day sports and also rightly traced increasing wave of drug cheats in sports to this money-spinning possibilities when they wrote thus; “As a part of the stream of business into sports, another change has been the influx of money, which many believe has become obscene and wrong”.
According to them; “However, the fact of the matter is that when somebody is “The Best in the World” at anything, ordinary people want to watch or see those people perform-whether they are actors, musicians or athletes. As much as people decry the high salaries and excess of sports, the spectators and consumers of sports make it possible. Past the issue of public perception, however, there lie more serious issues. Like all things in life, when big money and business are involved, the opportunities and temptations to cheat or do whatever it takes to get ahead increase. In sports, this often involves performance enhancing drugs or gambling.”
Recently, one of America’s all time best cycling athletes Mr. Lance Armstrong was exposed by his nation’s top cycling authority for alleged notorious use of performance enhancing drugs over a period of several years.
The New York Daily News of Wednesday October 10th 2012 reported the well researched findings of the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA) detailing the sophisticated methods used by Mr. Lance Armstrong, a cancer survivor, to win several laurels through the inducement of performance enhancing drugs.
The New York Daily News reported thus; “Lance Armstrong wasn’t just a cheater who used performance-enhancing drugs to win seven Tour de France titles, according to the explosive “reasoned decision” released by the United States Anti-Doping Agency on October 10th 2012-he was also a dope pusher who supplied banned substances to his teammate and threatened to replace cyclists who refused to juice”.
“The report describes an underground network of support staff-smugglers, dope doctors, drug runners-who kept Armstrong’s illicit program in business”.
“The evidence shows beyond any doubt that the US Postal Service Pro Cycling Team ran the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen,” USADA chief executive officer, Travis Tygart said.
USADA released 1,000 pages of evidence on October 10th 2012, including a 202-page summary detailing why the anti-doping agency stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de Franc titles this summer and barred him from competition for the rest of his life. The report was sent to cycling’s governing body, the International Cycling Union, as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency and the World Triathlon Corporation.
Incidentally, the United States topped the recent chat of top ten drugs cheats of all times in the sporting history. These drug cheats include Ben Johnson, once regarded as one of the greats in the sprinting world. The Jamaica-born Canadian Johnson, according to a compilation done by www.stuff.co.nz, had a high flying career throughout the 80’s.
Johnson won two Olympic bronze medals in Los Angeles and set consecutive World records at the 1987 World Championship in athletics in 1988 Olympics where he won gold. He was stripped of both World records and the Olympic title after his urine samples, were found to contain stanozolol in 1988.
Other cheats found out and sanctioned by world anti-doping body in sports are Floyd Landis; Marion Jones; Albertto Contador of Spain, other cheats include Chinese Swim team that tested positive for dihydrotestosterone at the 1994 Asian games; Nadzeja Ostapchuck of Belarus; Alex Schwazer of Italy and Ivan Tsikhan of Belarus who tested positive for abnormal levels of testosterone after the 2008 Olympic games.
The lesson for Nigerian athletes from the disgrace suffered by the American Lance Armstrong among other once sporting greats is that they must stay off drugs and the Sporting Authority in Nigeria must install state of arts anti-doping detection and testing facilities here in Nigeria to stop these cheats in their tracks before they disgrace us internationally.
* Emmanuel Onwubiko; Head, Human Rights Writers’ Association of Nigeria blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.