I wholeheartedly concur with one Olympian’s recent conclusion that “we need full reform of the organization, its purpose, and its functionality.” Myself and my friends who were in Fellowship of Christian Athletes in college are rather aghast at what at least some of the elements within the USOC have become.
Do you think the erosion of the sense of fair play and above-board mindset afforded the U.S. from our Judeo-Christian heritage has contributed to the problems? After all, if one is never willing to cut any corners in the first place, then the idea of doping in any form, much less the horrors that happened with Nassar, is simply out. But when moral relativism approaches the rules in such a way that it’s looking to see how far they can push the envelope, bending the rules but not breaking them, the logical next step involves breaking them without being caught, and even hiding the truth in the process.
That mindset is based not on a sense of fair play but on winning at all costs, just so long as they’re not caught.
By contrast, an approach whereby everyone within the system both understands and fully respects what is prohibited results in steering well clear what’s inappropriate, working within “the Olympic Spirit which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Learning that level of respect, that sense of fair play, begins at a very early age. While I appreciate the “winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing” Red Saunder-isms and Lombardi-isms in professional sports, and certainly on the battlefield, the Olympics was never about replacing war with sports as a means of counting coup. If that’s what’s corrupting the sense of fair play we viewers world-wide expect to see, then perhaps the IOC has bigger fish to fry, including tackling the worldwide loss of faith-based foundations upon which these ideals stand firm.
Under a true sense of fair play, strict doping rules would result in athletes who take the high road. They wouldn’t behave in ways which avoid getting caught (the letter of the law), but rather, they might behave in ways would refuse to engage in any form of doping at all. Under strict rules, however, that might not only ban training while using oxygen-deprivation devices, but also requiring all athletes to train below a certain altitude, say, the lowest elevation available in all member nations. Such a draconian approach to political correctness, however, adopts all nation’s responsibilities to afford their athletes appropriate access to reasonable training venues.
The point is that even within the scope of doping, lines should be drawn between natural and artificial means of training. It’s perfectly natural to train at higher altitudes. Athletes have been hiking or running up mountains for millennia. We now have the technology to detect changes in the hypoxia-inducible factor 1 regulator and its many subservient enzymes. The problem is, we cannot yet differentiate, and may never be able to differentiate between training and altitude and training in an hypoxic environment. Thus, we’re back to fostering and relying on a sense of fair play. Fair play is only effective, however, in an environment where those who skirt the boundaries are chided and censured, “shamed,” if you will. Political correctness and its spirit of tolerance leaves little room for shaming.
Perhaps the problems within USOC are a reflection of similar or even greater problems throughout the International Olympic Committee and its competing athletes, many of whom feel that winning is everything and are compelled to win at all costs by the expectations of their respective nations.