Drug Policy

Mutant Synchronized Divers and Gene-Doped Gymnasts

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mutants?

In today's NYT Science Times, my former boss John Tierney proposes a dope and let dope approach to the Olympics.

Sure, pumping 15-year-old full of anabolic steroids might not be copacetic, but steroids and other enhancement techniques don't seem to do much lasting damage to adults—perhaps less than the knee-busting, concussion-inducing, back-throwing sports themselves. And it's not likely that testing will keep pace as doping becomes subtler and more gene-oriented.

Tierney's proposal:

I'd like to see what would happen if someone started a new anything-goes competition for athletes over 25. If you have any ideas for how to run it or what to call it — MaxMatch? UltraSports? Mutant Games? — submit them at nytimes.com/tierneylab. Maybe fans would object to these "unnatural" athletes. But maybe not. The fans, after all, include people with laser-corrected eyes, chemically whitened teeth and surgically enhanced anatomies. Not to mention the pharmacopeia coursing through our veins.

Plus, every one likes to see a record well and truly smashed, even if there is an asterisk in the record books. 

Geek note: For those interested in the idea of genetically and mechanically enhanced beings battling it out in games and war, you should read Dan Simmons' Ilium and Olympos, a science fiction recasting of the Iliad and the Odyssey, with nanobot-powered and gene-doped gods.

More on the joys of steroids here and here.

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  1. Andy Miah at WaPo had a similar rant against the “natural athlete” the other day, but he got all chickenshit when it came to steroids.

    This idiotic obsession with the “natural athlete”, which lives in complete contradiction to reality, can’t die a quick enough death.

  2. Also in fiction, Larry Niven had a 1992 novel titled “Achille’s Choice” that invokes similar themes.

  3. Mutant Games? Now THAT I would watch. For the past few days, people have been asking who won what at the bar that I work at and all I’ve been able to do is explain that I don’t watch television. A damnable lie perhaps but everyone that asked was describing the Olympics like they almost qualified themselves. Annoying.

  4. Don’t know about doping, but if those women Chinese gymnasts are all sixteen, I’ll eat my hat.

    The main vaulter looks 9.

  5. On a previous thread, someone suggested we have an Olympics broken down into augmented and unaugmented. I would much rather watch the augmented.

    As long as the participants are consenting adults, i could care less. So, When Ben Johnson broke the world record with is his 9.79 in the 100 meter dash, that made him the fastest at that time.

    I resent this idiotic idea of the “natural Athlete.” First of all, they won the genetic lottery that gave them a head start. Plus they get technically sophisticated trainers. Maybe i could compete, if I had some help with steroids and was will to take the risk of using them.

    And while I am ranting, I wish they would just show the fucking sports and competition. I don’t give a fuck about these personal interests stories. So they sacrifices and trained hard, yadda, yadda, I don’t give a shit. I know single mothers who work hard, pay their taxes, and raise good kids who don’t suck of society are way more heroic than some jackoff who won the genetic lottery.

  6. Troy,

    Damn. You won the genetic lottery that did not leave you retarded . . . I assume anyway. Point is that average genetics and a shit load of hard work also gets you to the Olympics. Not some god like work of genetics absent the hard work.

    *Disclaimer: I’m 6’1″, 190 lbs, I run 2 miles at least three days a week, and can bench 240 lbs.

  7. I think they already have the Mutant Games, anyone ever watch the “World’s Strongest Man” competitions?

  8. Geek note: For those interested in the idea of genetically and mechanically enhanced beings battling it out in games and war, you should read Dan Simmons’ Ilium and Olympos

    Heinlein wrote about similar stuff (and much more!) in “Beyond This Horizon”. He even stipulated that there would be natural control humans around just in case something went horribly wrong.

  9. Saturday Night Live did a short sketch on the “All Drug Olympics” way back in 1989. It’s all fun and games until Kevin Nealon rips his arms off.

  10. Oops, I’d misremembered. Kevin Nealon is the announcer, Phil Hartman yanks his own arms off.

  11. He even stipulated that there would be natural control humans around just in case

    What, in zoos or something?

  12. Point is that average genetics and a shit load of hard work also gets you to the Olympics. Not some god like work of genetics absent the hard work.

    Who in the Olympics is of “average genetics?” How do you know?

    Also, there’s not a single performance enhancing drug that makes making the Olympics without working hard possible.

  13. Matt M,

    My apologies for using the wrong qualifier. My point was supposed to be that Troy’s dismissive attitude to people who won the “genetic lottery” was a bit overblown. My point was that everyone worked there ass off to get to the Olympics and where not simply born with superior genetics.

  14. Now that Matt M is out of the way . . . we should have genetically and mechanically enhanced beings battle it out in some type of arena. Perhaps . . . in a dome shaped structure. Studded with spikes and ad hoc weapons. Also, we would need a flashy title to call this domed arena. Maybe, call it a . . . Thunder Dome?

  15. Does Tierney really think that people preparing for enhanced events after the age of 25 aren’t going to start when they’re a lot younger?

  16. I would much rather watch the augmented.

    And may the best man, or former-man, or chemical corporation, win!

  17. Let the mutants rule, gene doping for everyone.

    disclaimer: I eat donuts 3 times a day and jelly and cream cheese bagles are the main course for dinner. I can bench 2 beer cans and a pizza and run the mile in about 6 days. Let the games begin……..

  18. I’m never out of the way.

    My point was that everyone worked there ass off to get to the Olympics and where not simply born with superior genetics.And Troy’s point (and mine) is that superior genetics help (hence his use of the phrase “head start”), just like drugs help. Neither genetics nor drugs makes it possible for a couch potato to succeed at athletics.

  19. Of course, I should have previewed.

    My point was that everyone worked there ass off to get to the Olympics and where not simply born with superior genetics.

    And Troy’s point is that superior genetics help (hence his use of the phrase “head start”), just like drugs help. Neither genetics nor drugs makes it possible for a couch potato to succeed at athletics.

  20. Who in the Olympics is of “average genetics?” How do you know?

    Which naturally raises the question, how do you know who in the Olympics is not of “average genetics”? If you can’t know one, you can’t know the other, right?

  21. Don’t know about doping, but if those women Chinese gymnasts are all sixteen, I’ll eat my hat.

    The Chinese government swears they are! Its on their passports, after all!

  22. The “average genetics” angle is a tricky one. I’m tempted to believe that most of the elite athletes are by rule above average genetics.

    However, look at the Tiger Woods example. Here’s Tiger at 2 on TV. Is that genetics or his father’s training? Well, my own two year old still has trouble with the putter at mini-golf, so I’m tempted to say both (genetics gave him the ability to swing smooth and be relaxed at 2, his father gave him the direction). But how can we know?

    The Chinese government swears they are! Its on their passports, after all!

    I laughed out loud when I heard that explanation on TV.

  23. Which naturally raises the question, how do you know who in the Olympics is not of “average genetics”? If you can’t know one, you can’t know the other, right?

    Of course this is true, I don’t have any proof that all athletes have genetic advantages. But I do know, anecdotaly, that many top athletes have odd bodies that help them compete. Michael Phelps is 6’4″ yet has only a 32″ inseam, Lance Armstrong has longer femurs than normal for his height, and Yao Ming is 7’6″ tall.

    I’m not trying to say that genetics make it possible to compete without working hard, I’m just combating the implication that somehow steroids and other drugs are the route of the lazy. The performance enhanced also work hard.

  24. I kept waiting for one of them to lose a baby tooth while tumbling.

  25. i’m all for steroids. but being utterly bored with the olympics already, and not caring if i never see michael phelps shilling for cell phone companies ever again, i certainly don’t want to see yet another of these over-hyped festivals of boring sports. my only concern during the entire olympics is making sure that lebron james doesn’t injure his ankle prior to the start of the real basketball season.

  26. Actually, the part of the Summer Olympics that I enjoy is the chance to see some of the really obscure sports – beach volleyball, fencing, beach volleyball, equestrian, beach volleyball etc. – that never get broadcast otherwise.

    Any “judged” sport – boxing, gymnastics, diving – I assume is fixed (or at least crooked), and so I tend to avoid them.

  27. The performance enhanced also work hard.

    Then… why “enhance”? Because “the spirit of competition” doesn’t matter as much as giving the fans ever-increasing feats to gape at? If everyone’s doping you’re basically back at square one, only with more impressive stats. I guess it boils down to why you watch sports.

  28. Here’s Tiger at 2 on TV. Is that genetics or his father’s training?

    Take any prodigy at any human endeavor, they perform far beyond expectation for their given ages. This is predominately some quirk of genetics. The transition from prodigy to master is training.

  29. Then… why “enhance”?

    To win.

    If everyone’s doping you’re basically back at square one, only with more impressive stats.

    First, not everyone is doping, and they’re not all doing it the same way. Second, I could replace “doping” with “lifting weights” and that sentence is still true.

  30. Second, I could replace “doping” with “lifting weights” and that sentence is still true.

    Well, one of those things is commonly understood as “sportsmanlike”, and the other is perceived as “getting something for nothing”. You’re not going to get anywhere with this argument unless you can convince the public otherwise.

  31. Well, one of those things is commonly understood as “sportsmanlike”, and the other is perceived as “getting something for nothing”.

    Key word there is “perceived.”

    Also, as Megan McArdle notes in this post, weightlifting, or training of any kind, was not always thought of as sportsmanlike.

    You’re not going to get anywhere with this argument unless you can convince the public otherwise.

    Where do you think I’m trying to get? I’m happy enough just being right.

  32. How about we let your kid take some of the drugs that will produce birth defects in your grandkids? Or maybe your own kid will suffer heart damage or liver dysfunction, or endocrine malfunction before producing a mutant offspring? He may win but produce some affected children…oh the price of victory.

    Still for it? And what complete crap saying the drugs don’t produce side effects. Have a debate but don’t pull crap like that out of the thin air.

    BTW, weightlifting never once produced a birth defect or cancer.

  33. BTW, weightlifting never once produced a birth defect or cancer.

    Neither has blood doping. So what’s your point?

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