Sunday 14 August 2016

Nerd Church - Sometimes You Need A Sense of Perspective

The Olympics is great. I said as much last week when I talked about how inspiring it can be.

But there's another side of it.

When Sir Philip Craven announced that Russia would be banned from the Paralympics, he said this:

"...The Russian government has catastrophically failed its para-athletes. Their 'medals over morals' mentality disgusts me. The complete corruption of the anti-doping system is contrary to the rules and strikes at the very heart of the spirit of Paralympic sport.

It shows a blatant disregard for the health and wellbeing of athletes and, quite simply, has no place in Paralympic sport..."

Now, I'm not here to debate the rights and wrongs of the ban, or whether the Olympics should've done the same, or the whole Russian doping controversy, or whatever.

No, what I'm here to talk about is 'medals over morals.'

Because the reason doping happens (and I'm sorry, but it has to be said,) is because people put winning a medal over everything else.

Focus is good. Ambition is good. But, to me, there seems to be no sense of perspective in sport. And athletes desperately need that back.

Someone will always come last. It's physically impossible for everyone to come first.

The reason you are competing should not be to win a medal - as crazy as that may sound. The reason you compete should be to show the possibilities of human achievement - to do the best that you can. And to be proud, whether you come in 1st or 50th.

The problem doesn't just come from the athletes - but from the countries they come from. People like to prove that their country is 'better' - and yes, it's always nice to win medals.

But, in the grand scheme of things, it's not worth the risk to your health of cheating... or the risk to your health of carrying on when you're hurt (something which is permitted, and even admired, when it is oh so stupid.)

If you drop out with injury today, there will still be other races, other matches, other competitions. If you carry on, and do yourself permanent damage (or, heaven forbid, worse,) then you are actually shortening your career, or even your life.

And there are some sports which should be looking after their athletes more generally: boxing being a prime example. Constant blows to the head will cause long-term brain damage.

Blows to the head can kill you. So why, when cyclists wear helmets, don't boxers do the same? Because it's less exciting? Is that really a reason to risk all the damage than can be done?

Long endurance events, if done often enough, can actually damage your heart. Yet we seem to encourage people to do marathons over and over again. When did reaching for the stars start to mean burning your hands?

Yes, yes, yes - we've all heard 'no pain, no gain' and similarly reductionist mantras. I'm not saying we shouldn't try to achieve, to get fit, etc. - of course we should.

What I'm saying is that this loss of perspective - the fact, for example, that we've forgotten that an Olympic medal is not worth your health - is what's led to the corruption and doping in sport.

And this is what needs to be changed if the problem is ever to go away. We have to stop with the at-any-cost 'medals over morals' mentality. It's ok to come last - someone has to.

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  1. We always need a sense of perspective. I always find the olympics to be so inspiring but it is sad that doping happens and people just want to win, and they don't see the fascination and fun in everyone coming together to play sports internationally!

    1. I agree - it reaches a moment where you're like: dudes, I think you've missed the point of why we're doing this in the first place!

  2. My family and I were just talking about this last night with some friends. I kind of speculate when an athlete seems just too good to not be doping, but I guess you never really know until you know. But i wish we lived in a world where countries didn't need a validation of medals to determine how great they are.

    1. I honestly think that the problem of the attitude of 'by any means' needs to be dealt with if the doping problem is ever going to go away :/ Interesting comment Em :)


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