PtG Article 13.11.2000

Victims of Passive Doping

How can we describe a press corps that up until 1998 passively hitched a ride on the professional cycling caravan, allowing the riders to lift share values up with them into the mountains?

When, at the start of 1999, major corruption allegations surrounding the International Olympic Committee first began to surface, Juan Antonio Samaranch's response was clear.

Firstly, the IOC Chairman pointed out that most of those accused of compromising the Olympic ideals had been members of the committee long before he himself had begun his 20-year reign - therefore, he could not be held responsible for any alleged transgressions.

Secondly, Samarach claimed that in all his years serving the Olympic movement, he had neither seen nor heard anything resembling corruption. This led the English sports journalist Simon Barnes to conclude that there were actually good grounds to have sympathy for the powerful chairman. There was no reason to portray him as a villain, wrote Barnes, because in reality he had been cast as a defenceless victim of "passive corruption".

The idea that despite displaying wholly virtuous behaviour, an individual can become the victim of other people's depravity is well known from the controversy surrounding cigarette smoking. Also, perhaps, from occasions where seemingly innocent women find themselves pregnant for no apparent reason. I held Simon Barnes' words in the back of my mind when I came to prepare this document, which will address the media's role in the fight against doping in sport.How can we describe a press corps that up until 1998 passively hitched a ride on the professional cycling caravan, allowing the riders to attract viewers and readers, promote advertising and lift share values up with them into the mountains. A press corps who, after the end of the working day, routinely referred to the pelathon as a "pharmacy on wheels" - yet never allowed their readers, viewers or listeners to share this insight. How can we describe these "priests" of the media cathedral who regularly traverse the world of athletics and hail winning competitors as angels or saints?

These same priests also pass instant judgement on the heroes they create, and condemn them to damnation as sinners the moment they are dumb enough to be discovered with unwanted substances in their bloodstream. Members of the media made the sign of the cross when they saw the muscle bound women from the former communist countries. However, most preferred not to listen when Carl Lewis - athletics' uncrowned king - maintained that doping in the USA was worse than it had been the former East Germany. And how can we describe the reporters who cover football's media circus? The journalists who are accepted as "one of the lads" - as long as they conveniently forget their knowledge of power games off the pitch. Journalists who prefer to ignore evidence of fast muscle growth or miraculous, health restoring shots. All this for the chance to broadcast Sunday's goals in slow motion from 32 different camera angles. For me there is no doubt: Our colleagues - who in recent years have contributed to the creation of a global entertainment industry without parallel in the history of the world - have been, and still are - victims of "passive doping."In contrast to their earlier silence, today's newspapers seemingly write of little else - with few objections from those veteran journalists of the 1998 Tour de France. Indeed, it is becoming more and more difficult to watch a cycle race or 100-metres sprint without representatives of the media bringing up the doping angle. Since July 1988, the French police have (maybe on the orders of an unnoticed and sympathetic hand in government) been able to disclose that riders, masseurs and bosses in the world's most famous cycle race (scusate, italiani!) systematically made use of illegal substances. Apparantly, they were so open about their actions that even their friends the journalists could not fail to figure out what was going on. It is no longer been possible for the media to rehash the same old story of the individual riders' heroic battle against the mountain, and efforts to gain immortality without at the same time implying that the hero could be powered on more than mama's pasta bolognaise. Since 1998, when Switzerland's Marc Hoddler - one of the IOC's oldest members - disclosed his knowledge of corruption, it has been impossible to refer to the IOC members' unselfish fight for world peace and international understanding without mentioning that those very same members keep a wholly natural eye out for their own interests. And, incidentally, would never dream of seeking a democratic mandate.There can be no doubt: The media is caught up in a serious dilemma. On one hand it is obliged by both the public and shareholders to deliver the exciting copy and pictures. On the other hand, most mass media is founded on the ideals of promoting a form of truth. As long as doping and corruption is infringing on the rules of sport and democracy, they are also a truth one is required to withold information on. sandhed. They are also a truth one is required to withold information on. Many things would become easier if the doping question was handled in the same way as the question of amateurism. When I was a boy - not so long ago - the word "amateur" was an honourable title, while professional sports people were seen as slightly soiled. The question of amateurism was discussed intensely across the world. Sports people were disqualifies from representing their country or participating in the Olympics if they had accepted more coins than they could hold in one hand.But as money moved into sport in greater quantities, idealism moved in the opposite direction. During the 1970's these scandals were forgotten, and today, millionaire tennis players travel the world parading Olympic medals as just another of their trophies. When the magazine Forbes publishes a list of the world's richest sports people, no one clamours for their expulsion from international competition. But could you imagine a similar list published in the Lancet, rating sports people on their intake of drugs? I do not believe this will happen, but on the other hand I have no illusions that the current trends run against a cleaner and more ethical world of sport. The media's dilemma will soon be resolved for good or for bad, because it threatens the well-being of what has become a multi-million dollar entertainment industry. If the media focuses too much on the political elements of sport, it risks draining the entertainment value.

However, without the political element, sport will be drained of all ethical meaning - and its special status in society will disappear. The media tries to temporarily jump from stone to stone as the tide swirls in around them. During the Tour de France in 1998, the mass media sounded like they had been shaken and shocked by the "revelations." The following year they went completely over the hill. Any rider who broke away from the pack was immediately suspected of doping. In this way, the journalistic conscience was set to rights without the need for any deeper research than the previous year.The high points were there to read in the French Sports paper Lquipe, which is seen by many as part of the event's own media machine. When, after some days' riding, Lance Armstrong had gained a clear lead in the overall standings, Lquipe's headline read Armstrong Stupfiant - with a clear double play on the word "stupfiant." The word can be translated as both "amazing" and "under the influence." I could surely become just as rich as the world\'s great sports tzars if I had an acceptable solution to the dilemma facing the media. But I do not. However, I have a couple of suggestions as to how the media can look for the start of the new road with a little more hope.

Firstly, we need to take a step backwards and ask on something completely fundamental. We talk as if we know precisely what sport is, what the media is and what doping is. This is in spite of there is talk of much complex phenomona, and we talk of them as separate things - even though they often move themselves to become one connected organism. But how do we define what is sport? We often hear that sport is as good as always - at least, its substance is the same as in the time of the ancient Greeks. We hear that it is all about a healthy soul involved in healthy games which promote democracy and peace on Earth. The Olympic motto - " Faster - Higher - Stronger " - is an expression for sport's innermost, eternal inner core. These are nice words, and it is certainly to find anyone who claims to be "against sport" per se. Even though some may feel thayt it is rather too plentiful on TV.

However, these nice words cover up more than they reveal. The world of sport that we know today, is rather more than 100 years old. It is true that people have indulged in competitive activities, played and competed for fun throughout time - not least in order to be shaped into a member of society. But the form and aim of these activities have changed in step with alterations in the times and society.The European aristocracy in the feudal society did not play football. They practiced, among other things, fencing, dressage and minuets. The symmetrical form and the controlled passion as we know from architechture and art made itsself also relevany in the culture of the body. When peasants played football at the same time it was often a highly dangerous game between two villages, with the object to move the ball round the entire neighbourhood. There was nothing called a free kick, and the concept of "fair play" did not exist. Peasants also had more peaceful games, where laughter was an important part and where winning was not important - the object was not to come last, and become the subject of derision. This mirrored a peasant culture where there was no chance of any real social advancement, while - on the other hand - social support was an important brick in the survivalIn Scandinavia, peasants later took in (when they were released from the service of the squire) - - towards a new form of body sculpture, namely gymnastics. In a large gymnastic team, individual peasants learned to use their bodies in a harmonical way - in sharp contrast to the monotonous agricultural work. In this way, they learnt to become a part of a national spiritual and intellectual community. In this way, they learned to create a balance between the disengagement of the individual and the adaptation to the community.The ideals of gymnastics were and are a long way from those of sport. When one of my predecessors, as editor of the publication "Youth and Sport" witnessed an athletics match in 1904 between England and Finland. The editor was astonished over the fact that the English used all possible tricks to overcome their obstacles. They doubled up, and fell down on their hands and knees.

The Finns, on the other hand, jumped erectly and elegantly. Even though they did not acheive the height of their English counterparts, they were deemed by judges to be the victors. Whereas in sport the highest leap would win the day, gymnastics also looks to style as a deciding factor. Sport as the ancient Greeks practiced it contained some of the disciplines we know today. But it also contained violent games in which competitors ran the risk of injury or death. Games that were excersised with other ideals, with a different political goal and a wholly different spirit, namely to honour the gods. Gradually, as the Olympics became professionalised and began to have the look of a show, gik de deres dd imde.

Therein, it possibly looked like something we recognise - but generally it is meaningless to trace a line of similarity from the ancient Olympics to today\'s date. And a healthy soul in healthy games. Is this not an antique slogan yhat is relevant to sport today. Not quite. The aim of modern sport, as it was created in the English middle classes while the Industrial revolution grew around them, was neither to berrer the soul or the body, but to build a good character. Sport was supposed to turn "men to boys and boys to men" and, among other things, strengthen the will.In connection with this the concept of amateurism came into its own. Partly because it fulfilled the function of keeping the middle and working classes separate, but also because of the notion that if it was to build a noble character, sport should remain "pure" - ie free from financial interests. It should be a free room - as art was for art's sake, so should sport be for its own ends. Coubertins Olympic motto: Faster, higher, stronger - provides the best expression of this merger between the ideals of sport and those of business.

Groundbreaking growth across boundries is the eternal goal - and to measure this growth accurately and on a uniform foundation, the world draws as much naturalness out of the sport as humanly possible. The light of day, and the wind are locked out of sports arenas. And if sport takes place outdoors, everything possible is done to adjust the conditions of tha lanes, apperatus etc to an accurate, measureable standard. Sport tells a simple story in centimeters, gram and seconds. The highest high jump is the best. The longest long jump is the best - as long as the wind was not blowing too much. Ball players have borrowed many of these ideals and also regulated time and environment, and built complicated mathematical systems around themselves. Their message, however, is a little more complicated to understand. This is why Coubertin did not pay so much attention to them.

In his opinion, ball players did not focus enough on the individual, and therefore too little on character building. Coubertin's wish was to create a cult. In his opinion, this cult would be good for the furthrance of democracy. In his opinion, the cult of beauty was the only place in which modern democracy could find a countyerweight to the material anxieties that characterised their lives. That he succeeded in making a half-religious cult out of sport is beyond doubt. But the question of whether the activities themselves serve the cause of democracy - a cause that many still uphold - is highly dubious.

I will not single out the IOC and the other large sports organisations as models for new democracy. And when we look at sports activities, it holds the possibility for both democracy and the opposite. If democracy was an inherant part of sport, it would not have been so popular with both communist and fascist dictators over the last hundred years. But it is certain that sport holds a great potential for the furthrance of democracy., that has become neglected. I will touch on this later. By using examples from history I want to stress that sport is not just sport.

It is the physical culture of our time. Like the physical culture past times, it creates the physical images of the ideals that characterise these times. It creates images, but it also attempts to create individuals in these images. It is a reciprocal action. All great sports thinkers - not least Coubertin - have been aware of this. "Physical development has at least as much effect on morals as the physique," he says. "If the muscles are developed, a character and a strength of will is also formed - in short, a person is created."This also means that the last word on physical culture can never be uttered, that it can never be changed, and we in our time have the opportunity to create a sporting world founded on ideals that we can come to agreement on here and now. What could be more suitable than to start today, at a conference on sport for the young? Many changes have already occurred. Just 50 years ago, sport was the concern of the young. People discussed in all seriousness whether it was healthy for women to exert themselves, and whether some branches of sport were suitable for women at all.Today, most sport has become firmly established as suitable for all ages and both genders - from babies taking their first dip in the pool to retirees enjoying a game of petanque. From young skaters to fashionable women on rollerskates, from teenage tai-chi enthusiasts to overweight men on their racing cycles. So many cultural values, co many expressions, that the attempt to regulate them with classic reasoning fails as being too too narrow.Unfortunately, neither sports organisations nor the media have become aware of these changes - or the resulying opportunities to benefit the cause of democracy. - or they would prefer not to disclose their awareness. Because the single story of modern sport has been a complex and hard-hitting business, in which the media, sponsors, sports organisations and executives exert all their influence to retain the Olympic message as the only possible sporting philosophy. Faster, Higher, Stronger. It is precisely these singlr-track values that are the essential reason for the rise of doping. Babies swimming in a pool have no reason to use drugs. They do not need to go faster. The Tai Chi enthusiast has no motive for doping, because you cannot dope yourselkf to greater bodily control and inner peace. Pensioners playing petanque will maybe drink a glass of red wine while they play - grounds, with the current morality, to be taken in for doping tests. This, of course would be grotesque. They have no motive to use artificial substances. The fashionable woman on roller skates also has no motive to use performance-enhancing drugs. To do so would not increase their well-being or strengthen any signals given off about an "active lifestyle." Even the well-proportioned cycling enthusiast's only motive to use doping is an attampt to copy the cycling heroes of the Tour de France in the beleif that their values are the best. This brings us back to the Olympic motto. Doping is not first and foremost a hippocratic, health or legal problem. It is, first and foremost a cultural problem closely knitted together with the current values of sporting culture.In the cultural battle against doping, the media plays an enormously important role. I beleive that it can be advantageous to look back to the roots of the media - to the media's purported actual function in a democratic society. The many, many public service broadcasters taht are deeply involved in sport need to break their one-sided alliance with those who see sport as part of the entertainment industry. They need the courage to risk that their large investments in broadcast rights are interrupted by debate and discussion about sport's goals and funding. The must and should give place to not just exciting commentators, but also critical journalism. The game is naturally true of the print media, who are not in the same economic "clutrches" - except when they themselves arrange cycle races - and also they must set aside man hours and funding to describe life in sport's rapidly-growing area behind the scenes. When it concerns doping, we must be clearly aware that journalists - to their great annoyance - never unveil doping. Journalists have simply no opportunities to come up with the decisive proof. When it appears that a journalists has uncovered a doping story, actually the thanks must always go to his or her "sources." This does not mean that journalists should remain passive. They should - using all resources - try to get close to the truth. One thing I beleive we can ask of our sports stars - as a model to the coming generation - is to insist on the truth. But fine and honourable though this form of goal-oriented journalism is, it would be a mistake to beleive that it is the media's strongest weapon in the fight against doping.Already we are witnessing - not least in Southern Europe - that the public is coming to a large extent to be uninterested in doping scandals. The Chairman of the International Cycling Union, Hein Verbrggen is of the opinion that yet another doping problem has arisen - journalists, especially Danish ones, getting obsessed with the problem! So maybe the scandals do not work as a deterrant - could it be that they are strengthening young riders' beleif in medical magic to help drive the pedals round faster? Their idols do it without suffering terrible consequences. Another risk is that the cases of doping - like many other good stories - become so demonised that the journalists feel obliged to print what they like, without accurate research. In the long run this will lose any sense of proportion, and end up boring the public - who will eventully lose interest in what sportsmen do, or what they fill themselves with.If the media really wants to make an impression in the fight against doping, journalists must - somewhat paradoxically - learn to write about something completely different. Just as they often take their role in a democratic society seriously when reporting on politics, culture or the economy, they must also play the democratic card in the area known as physical culture. They must abolish the preservation of that sanctuary called the sports desk. Over the past hundred years this has existed with a whilly separate journalistic premise than the other sections. It is strange that the media seemingly couldn't care less about the culture of the body - the same culture that engages their readers, listeners or viewers on a daily basis. It is a collossal, uncharted area that offers itsself.Think what power is represented by daily, completely average people practicing sport. Think of the passion that hundreds of millions of people put into their daily sporting routines. Those very same people that the media is in daily contact with. Their sporting habits are, as we know, widely different to those of professional sportspeople - and there is not an infinate amount of drugs to write about. OK, no-one is bothered about reading about chubby Mrs smith\'s cycle ride in the countryside or Mr Smith's excertions in the aerobics cente. And who cares about a junior, thied division ice hocky game?

To this I offer the answer: Should the sports sections of newspapers be the only pages wher people do not want to read about themselves. Of course, there should stll be a place for David Beckham and the Laudrup Brothers - but this does not mean that all sports coverage shall be of similar content. It is an inconvenience to take this kind of sport seriously: One cannot, as in elite sport, turn on the camera and the microphone, lean back and be sure that a group of well-trained millionaires will create the drama. It needs an active and investigative journalistic contribution.But whch TV station follows a team of minor players over a long period, and reports on which ideals the youth is charactarised by intheir everyday life in the sports club? Does the trainer appear as a stopwatch dictator, or does he teach the boys the value of co-operation? Does he rule by fear or trust? Which newspaper bothers to take a close look at the sports facilities of a local community? Questions such as who is in charge of the facilities, who gets the best deals and training times, and which members of the connunityfind themselves excluded? Which media analyses how the big national associations receive more funding from central government, and higher subscriptions from their members? - just to throw money out of the window on a new "elite" project or luxurious lunches?For the past ten years, I have been working as an editor of both weekly and monthly magazines that exclusively concern themselves with average people's sporting activities in the very average country of Denmark. I can guarantee that tgtere are plenty of interesting stories to write about - also following normal journalistic criteria. This would come as no surprise for the journalists whomake a living writing about food, culture, housing, cars, business and many other subjects. But it would be news for sports journalists. It would cost a degree of inconvenience to turn the direction around, but in return one would reap the benefits of an insight into sport's cultural riches whose abundant benefts are woth the trouble and inconvenience.To underline how important this is, I would one more time like to remind you of the discoveries that Baron Pierre de Coubertin and other great sporting thinkers have made - that there is no stronger method of shapinmg people's character than through the body, through play and through sport. Therefore, a change in the focus of the media is not just a gift for the media's own developmenmt. The pictures and examples that the media brings forward cam also affect youngsters' perception of what is good and what is bad in sport.Similarly, the media has a great effect on global, national and local sports policy. - and with it on the framework that people use to characterise and influence each other in their dailt sporting lives. Therefore, any media committed to building democratic values has not only an oportunity, but an obligation to promote future development in which sport's current motto - Faster, Higher, Stronger - be replaced with forms for the culture of the body - such as "healthiser, more fun and more enrichment." For every step that the mass media dares to take into this new land, they remove themselves a little more from their sorry role as the victims of passive doping.Thanks for your time - have a good journey!