Now that the viewing of sports is becoming a major industry — if it’s not already the biggest industry for all I know — when some sportspeople can earn astronomical incomes, then doping must be here to stay, however much the purists complain.
Time and again, in what we thought was a pure sector of the industry, we discover that we’ve been naive. I’m prompted to write this since dipping into the sports supplement of my ‘quality’ newspaper. Incidentally, this 20-page stapled supplement, equivalent to 10 broadleaf pages, is already longer than the 8 pages of my businesss supplement. I dare say it will grow a lot longer yet — if the paper itself survives in the coming years.
Which I think it will — going off-topic again very briefly. What I find interesting as a newspaper addict is that even though my daily newspaper, delivered through my letter-box every morning is also freely available on-line, I actually read my paper version. I’ll sometimes read a story in detail on-line but, for actually perusing a newspaper and going backwards and forwards leisurely instead of having to jump about — and having to wait for adverts to download — and to become pestered by all sorts of other surveys and things — then the paper version wins hands down. I can easily ignore adverts there if I want to. Besides the Daily Telegraph — whose politics I don’t much like — is clever enough not to put its crossword on-line!
No, I wasn’t actually naive about althletics. It’s been plagued by doping for many years, particularly among sprinters. It’s just that in long distance running, what with, recently, the delightful innocent personality of Mo Farah, the growing popularity of women runners, and in which millions of amateurs take part in marathons and half-marathons every year, and with all the controversy and investigations about doping, it might have been clean. Whether Mo Farah himself has been taking drugs I wouldn’t remote speculate about on screen but when one reads that his coach, Alberto Salazar, is now facing fresh claims (and hiding himself from journalists), one wonders.
In fact, one doesn’t just wonder. Let’s just say that, in all likelihood, in most sports where big earnings are involved for physical performance, there is going to be drug-taking — and particularly among the winners. And, just as government regulators can’t prevent evermore imaginative financial scams, nor can sports authorities prevent doping. Why don’t we simply accept the situation? Let high-earning sports people trade their longer-term health against money if that’s what they want to do.
We can then look at sportspeople (and their coaches!) in the same way that we look at Grand Prix racing (where, incidentally, I’m absolutely sure that racing car drivers don’t take drugs — drugs can’t decrease mental reaction times). Although the skill of the drivers is important in winning races, the percentage difference between them is microscopically thin. It is the difference between the development and maintenance of the racing cars that makes the difference (and that’s pretty thin, too!). So it will be between sports personalities and their coaches. It is not only the punishing training schedules and mental persistence of the athletes that we will be assessing and praising but also the dietary expertise of their coaches.