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The Civilisation Games

By Toby Ralph - posted Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Oh Lance, what have you done?You’ve broken the heart of the World.You took drugs. That’s just soooo bad. And you got caught. That’s far worse. We can never forgive you that. It’s unpopular, but actually I feel a bit sorry for him. We’re all flawed frauds to a degree. It took Hegel to explain “No man’s a hero to his valet.”

I suspect the truth is that just about everyone in his (Armstrong’s not Hegel’s) major races - with a handful of back-of-field exceptions - was using performance enhancing drugs of one kind or another. To compete on their steep but proverbially level playing field chemical augmentation was imperative. Those clean boys at the back of the peloton are working in insurance now, struggling to pay a mortgage. Lance still has his mansions and a nine-digit deposit account.

In retrospect would the disgraced cyclist choose to drug-up or lag the field? Maybe even after all the angst of exposure he’d elect the former, after all his contrition centred on getting caught, not the awfulness of cheating.


The first person banned from the Olympics for using a banned substance was Swedish pistol shooter Hans-Gunnar Lijenwall in Mexico, 1968. He’d had a couple of beers.

But things have gotten out of hand: money, the illusory benefits of celebrity and the humble desire to be seen to be the best have swamped the antiquated notion of sportsmanship.

A majority of power lifters and major league baseball players admit to using drugs. Cyclists, jumpers, hurdlers, swimmers’ distance runners and sprinters conceal them, but are caught more regularly than buses. Wrestlers, boxers, basket ballers and most certainly horses have a long history of overuse.

It is a rare professional athlete that has not used, or considered using banned substances.Can we swim against this tide?I think not.What say we don’t? Let’s just surrender.

What we need, in today’s better world, are tournaments where competitors can take anything they want, the more drugs the merrier. Faster, stronger, better. Games where not only pushbikes belt at Ducatian speeds, but over-muscled sprinters bound the 100 metres in five seconds, eat a lap in thirty, swim like Evinrudes or hurdle a four metre bar only to see the next chap dismissively vault five.

We need races where Oscar Pretorius can bounce forlornly behind teens with bigger blades, where squeaky-voiced giants with the jaunty gait of a Jaguar outbolt Usain. Where a hop, skip and jump event demands being held outside the confines of a stadium for fear of athletes crashing into spectators and a discus competition must alert air traffic control.


Kerry Packer did it with cricket. He took the most tedious of sports and reduced it to a jus. Readers Digest did it with literature, Disney with morality.

Is it beyond us to allow sports that celebrate the most mankind can achieve?

It would offer a whole new world of heroic overt involvement to laboratories, doctors and leading edge scientists. It would draw on the magnificent advances of our entire civilisation rather than celebrating the tiresome genetic advantage distributed to so few, augmented by mind-sapping training. That mind-numbing muscle accumulation is just so 2012.

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About the Author

Toby Ralph is a practitioner of the dark arts of persuasion and is a not infrequent member of the panel on The Gruen Planet. He is also the author of Bullets, Ballots and Kabulshit: An Afghan Election.

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