Legalize it

By King Kaufman



Salon Staff
September 29, 2000 11:41PM (UTC)

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I agree with King Kaufman's approach to the drug scandal currently taking place in Sydney. I am a clinical pharmacist by training and I was appalled by the IOC's decision to strip a gold medal based on the presence of pseudoephedrine.

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While it is well known in the United States that this over-the-counter medication serves as one of the ingredients to concoct methamphetamine in clandestine drug labs, it is also one of the few drugs available to combat congestion without conjuring up numerous serious adverse effects and drug-drug interactions.

NO drug is absolutely without side effects; even placebos cause some effects in patients during well-controlled clinical trials. This young woman was not aided by the use of this medication, and it is a sad reflection on the amount of ignorance of drug use still running rampant in this and other countries.

If the athletes wish to pay the consequences of long-term (or short-term) use of anabolic steroids or any other "performance enhancing drug," let them make the choice to do so. When it involves breaking the controlled substance laws of either the host nation or their native country, let the enforcement agencies perform their jobs. Stripping the medal from the athlete doesn't erase the fact that the feat was accomplished, it only serves to further complicate matters for all involved.

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-- Ken Bittel, Pharm.D.

Hooray for King Kaufman! I am as sick and tired as he is of this medal-stripping and all that rubbish. The purpose of the ban on performance-enhancing drugs is to prevent anyone from having an unfair advantage. But we can't police everybody and every drug. So let them all use whatever they want. No unfair advantage. And the long-term effects are the responsibility of the athlete.

-- Philip J. Jerome

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Sudafed! I suppose that next they'll be banning aspirin, since being headache-free might give an athlete an "unfair advantage."

The fact is, all athletes utilize every unfair advantage they can get (or, more accurately, afford). High-tech footwear, aerodynamic track suits, computerized training techniques, scientifically designed diet regimens and costly nutritional supplements are all rather unfair to those without access to them.

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The Olympic drug ban is a bogus public relations sham, and just like the equally ridiculous U.S. war on drugs, it's all done in the name of "the children." After all, these athletes are supposed to be noble, patriotic role models, not flawed, ambitious, greedy, risk-taking individuals (like all of the rest of us).

It's time for athletes to be allowed to sculpt, mold or mutate their bodies however they see fit in order to excel at their chosen sport. The Olympics are already a freak show, and I think the bigger the freaks the better the show it would be.

-- Tom Flynn

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If the Olympic bureaucrats feel they must take away a gold medal because of a cold medication because those are the rules then any Olympic Committee member who is tarred by the Salt Lake City bribery scandal should be out on their butt (with no appeal) for not following those rules and they should be applied retroactively.

-- David Crammer

Of course you are right on the money about drug testing in these Olympic Games. Who amongst us can have such crystal-clear chemistry as these athletes are supposed have? There are pills for everything nowadays, EVERYTHING. And that includes a runny nose or being fat, thin, smart or running fast.

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As always, the rule makers would be out of work without the rule breakers. The problem is that these drug rules originated to maintain the spirit of the Games, and now they have become a near-impossible hurdle of their own that the contenders must clear.

-- M. Jackson

Although I cannot go to the extremes of author King Kaufman, it does seem like the IOC's "war on drugs" is becoming more petty, and is beginning to resemble a witch hunt. Not uncommon with the real world's war on drugs, the IOC rules and actions seem to be void not only of compassion, but simple reason.

Unemotional is one thing, illogical is another.

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-- J.Toal

King Kaufman is either stupid or dangerous, and likely both. The issue is not whether C.J. Hunter took drugs (he obviously did) but why the American drug testing authorities covered up his positive result along with those of other athletes in violation (at least in spirit) of the Olympic goal of fair play. C.J. Hunter is an accredited Olympic team member and is not participating simply because he is injured (a detail Kaufman chose to omit), not because of drug testing results. Had Hunter actually been participating in the Games this story would be an even bigger scandal than it already is. The real question is: How many other U.S. athletes' positive drug tests are being covered up?

The answers to Kaufman's questions regarding why athletes must live by these rules are similarly obvious. While it is true there are not too many ex-athletes on skid row, Kaufman need only look to athletes from the former East Germany for answers. These men and women are suing their sporting authorities for giving them drugs without their knowledge in the '70s and '80s. The children of these athletes often suffer horrendous birth defects, and the athletes themselves are suffering from illnesses that can be directly linked to the drugs they were given.

No athlete (or anyone else for that matter) should be expected or encouraged to risk their lives in pursuit of their dreams. While occasionally some athletes suffer harsh penalties for minor infractions, the overall goal of the drug authorities is unquestionably admirable. That goal is simply the quest for pure excellence in sport at all levels, not the chemically enhanced drive for fame and profit at any cost that Kaufman would apparently like to see.

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-- Tim Willett

Here's one difference between an aging linebacker with bad knees and an aging weightlifter with a history of heavy steroid abuse: You're a hell of a lot more likely to find the former still alive, bullshitting his grandkids about the heroics that wrecked his kneecaps.

The simple fact of the matter is that spectator sports exist at the pleasure of the spectators. If most members of the Olympic audience think consuming performance enhancing drugs is cheating, then it is. If people would rather not watch a hyped-up junkie tear down a track, then the Olympics needs drug testing.

Do most Olympic viewers disapprove of doping? Almost certainly. Why do they do so? I don't know, but I'm glad they do.

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It's bad enough that we encourage athletes to wreck their joints for the sake of our amusement -- let's leave their livers alone.

-- Peter J. Cacioppi

If they legalize drugs in the Olympics, then every athlete who wishes to remain competitive MUST take drugs. That doesn't strike me as "athlete's choice." Perhaps in this, as in other drug wars, there are no simple restoratives. Just lots of grandstanding.

-- Leigh Anne Jones

Maybe the social effects of the Olympic Games should be considered. If athletes set an example by using enhancement drugs, why not use enhancement drugs in everyday life? Lucky Kaufman earns his living by typing away at the computer, but how about those who work physically? I don't want to sign a work contract that forces me to take performance enhancement drugs in order to maximize output of a production line. Neither do I want to encounter a cop who works on stay-awake-all-night pills when he or she pulls me over in the middle of the night. Does Kaufman?

-- Oliver Strate
Karlsruhe, Germany

I won't call King Kaufman an "idiot" but he deserves a serious drubbing for his poorly-conceived suggestion that the Olympics be made a drug free-for-all. If performance-enhancing drugs are allowed by the IOC, they will subsequently be made mandatory by the competitive nature of the events. And no longer would the main limit of performance enhancement be the potential of exposure. The "long run" in which Kaufman seems so comfortable dooming athletes, becomes remarkably short once the restriction of secrecy is lifted. With legitimized and unrestricted drug enhancement, how many athletes would be ripping the muscles right off their bones, spitting up organs or simply dropping dead in the middle of competition?

-- Adam Clark

In 10, 20, 30 or more years, there will be great advances in the science of genetics. I believe that sooner or later, many practical changes will be commonly made to our physical selves. At first, we might lengthen the leg of a person who was born with a short leg, correcting nature's errors.But there will be very fuzzy lines in the genetic sand. I see no reason why at some point the same advances in genetic alterations won't basically create a stronger breed of athlete.

Won't the Olympics be in a no-win situation? If the 2036 Olympics lets the genetic-modifiers play the field, there will be no contest with "normal" people. So in the spirit of today's no-drugs rules, the genetic bunch could be disqualified. But then, the Olympics will be boring as hell to watch. Should we expect records to be broken indefinitely? The "normals" will be playing the field, and everyone will know they don't represent the fastest runner, the sharpest diver, etc.

On the other hand, if the Olympics lets the genetic bunch take the floor, then it will become a freak show of sorts: a parade of genetically modified superhumans. It'd be like watching the aliens do their stuff. How could one relate to another species of human outpacing everything we are capable of?

-- Dan Lynch


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