The more things change, the more they stay the same.
lt’s sometimes an over used phrase in all areas of life. However, it can be far too true when it comes to the world of sports, though especially so when it comes to the top competition of all – the Olympics.
Ever since the Olympic Games were invented in ancient times by the Greeks, there has likely been controversies over some team or someone cheating. The difference lately is that everyone – from the competitors, the coaches and drug companies to the international sports governing bodies, officials, and testing laboratories – are trying extremely hard to accomplish their goals, which involve either beating the system in order to win or to find ways to catch them.
In simpler times, all officials had to worry about was someone hoping to gain an edge – which could usually be detected either before or during the competition, such as a wrestler getting ‘greased’ up before a match or someone trying to take out an opponent ala Tanya Harding.
Fixing the outcome of some events through influencing the officials in charge of supervising or judging the event – think of the fiasco that surrounded figure skating a couple of decades ago along with the long-term speculation regarding soccer that finally surfaced recently – has been part of the Olympics for a long time, especially given the greed and struggles for power among the elite in the sports community. Fortunately nowadays, its bubbling up into the light more and more, though unfortunately its still bubbling and will likely continue to as long as people are involved.
The advent of steroids and performance enhancing substances – first when the former block of Communist countries started winning practically all of the weightlifting and swimming medals then moving onto pretty much all sports – was the next big wave of cheating to hit the sports scene.
Everyone who was around remembers the shock and dismay that surrounded Canada in 1984 when Ben Johnson had not only his gold medal in the 100 metres taken away, but a world record wiped off the books to go with what ended up being an end to his sprinting career after a positive test.
That was in the very early days of athletes using drugs to assist in doing whatever they could to be bigger, stronger, faster in order to win. However, it was also just the beginning of basic drug testing, which didn’t always catch those cheating the system.
In fact, that’s what is continuing to take place to this day.
From the now disgraced ranks of athletes like Marion Jones who was caught in 2006 and then also admitted to doping when she won her five medals in 2000 to the blood doping scandal that eventually toppled Lance Armstrong who was striped in 2012 of his seven Tour de France titles, the stories continue to pop up as the technology of detection improves.
Case in point is the latest report that may see one of the best sprinters of all time lose a gold medal, though only due to one of his teammates potentially positive.
Usain Bolt, who has dominated the sprinting world since entering the scene in 2005 and is the only man to win six gold medals at one Olympics, may lose a gold medal in the relay from the 2012 Olympics after one of his teammates in that race has had the first of two drug screens test positive.
And the only reason for that is that those samples are being re-done with the latest in drug screening techniques and equipment, much in the same way that tests from as far back as the early 2000s were checked several years ago and shed light on cheating by a variety of other athletes.
However, the quest for fame, medals, money and prominence continue the push to win at all costs as new drugs and new methods to either mask or cheat the system are constantly being looked at. Simply look at why Russia is being investigated for its athletics team and its medal winners when it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014 for proof of that.
So, as the saying goes – the more things change, the more they stay the same.
But that is, just an observation.