Friday, October 05, 2007
I've always been a sports fan, usually professional sports, but the Olympics have held a magical hold on me since I was a kid. I watched the Winter and the Summer Games with my mom and sisters through Soviet pairs figure-skating domination, USA hockey finally beating the Russians, Dorothy Hamill, Katerina Witt, Nancy Kerrigan (snicker), and Michelle Kwan; through Olga Korbut, Nadia Comenici, Mark Spitz, Dwight Stones, Bruce Jenner, Carl Owens, Michael Johnson, and Marion Jones. We all joined in on the "Wow, those East German women look like guys with all those steroids they take!" jokes, all the "That Ben Jonson's a cheater!" stuff, and everything. I always held American athletes to a higher standard on the banned-substance scale. "We might not win every medal, but we earned the ones we did win fair and square, no steroids!" I'd tell myself.
It seems like you hear tales of steroid usage more and more often these days, but I've always been able to ignore it when it comes to my favorite Olympic athletes. I would just say, "prove it!" FloJo? No way. Not her. She was just that good. She's never tested positive. Marion Jones? Hell of an athlete, and pure talent and muscle. Never tested positive.
FloJo passed away before they could pin anything on her. Marion Jones, however, just had the tail pinned on her ass: steroids. From 1999, through that amazing five-medal performance ("The Drive for Five") in the 2000 Games. Through several comeback attempts and injuries and walk-offs and failures. How did such an amazing athlete fall so fast? I remember watching her drive for five, wanting her to win because she was so cute and so strong. And she seemed so pure, dedicated to her sport and doing it the right way. When the rumors started to swirl, I thought, "No way. Not her."
When I heard the story on NPR, in which she admits now that she was taking steroids--though OF COURSE she thought it was flaxseed oil!--I yelled "NOOOOOO!!!!" in the car (which scared the hell out of Kat, let me tell you). No way! Not her! What next? Lance Armstrong was doing chemo and 'roids at the same time, polishing it all off with a hot-lovin' session with Sheryl Crow and another Tour de France win? Muhammed Ali floatin' like a butterfly and doing "the clear"? Mary Lou Retton on HGH? Kristi Yamaguchi on--what--testosterone, for pete's sake?!
I have NEVER been one to idolize sports figures, pro or amateur, as "heroes." But I have watched them compete, grown to like some of them for their smiles, or their fire, or their amazing talent. And this is hitting me hard, man. Maybe it's just the fact that she's a woman, not some Russian weight-lifter or Barry Asshole Bonds. I don't know. But I still remember watching her win those medals and being proud of her achievement, dazzled by her smile and her speed. "The fastest woman in the world!" It makes me sad to learn that it was all fake, no better than McGwire on Andro, or Bonds on god-knows-what.