Monday, August 13, 2007

Character, Culture and Tri-Ethics

Character.

Iron Shane wrote of it in his emerging website, www.allthingstriathlon.com as part of his "Word of the Week" e-mail post. It really got me to thinking - go figure, the Bigun, thinking again - everyone stand back. I wrote this as a response to his e-mail...

I think our culture focuses far too much on the deeds of an individual without looking at the motives or the methods in which those deeds were accomplished. In many cases, once the character flaws are exposed, the individual once idolized fails to lose their heroic stature. This sends the message throughout our culture loud and clear - "the ends justify the means".

Before long we WILL see our sport become more and more infused with folks with great deeds but of low character. As sponsorship and prize purses become more lucrative, as Triathlon Teams become more popular with salaries that approach professional cycling, as Ironman slots become harder and harder to obtain, making qualifying that much more difficult - people will cheat to capture these prizes. Our Professional and Age Group heroes alike.

The triathlon culture (edit...what I should have wrote here is, The triathlon community...) is still small enough to be less effected by other sports and other facets of the world's cultures. With leadership and dialog, education and a strict adherence to the rules of the sport and ethics of the community, we have the opportunity to positively influence OUR culture, and perhaps set an example for others to follow. It's good to see, of all the topics, information, marketing, politics or just plain B.S. that COULD come from the Word of the Week, you choose the word Character. Bravo

Shane used some of my writing in his follow-on e-mail about Character yet again. I'm loving it! Again I wrote him back:

Thanks Shane - all this is important to me...I'd like to think that Triathlon is an Honor Oasis in the Character-flawed culture that is the world in which we live.

Just like it seems the stage winners from the TDF are the tested in that sport, your suggestion of Kona participants being tested is a valid one. Some percentage that is reasonable and that targets not necessarily the top age groupers, but maybe ones that have shown an uncharacteristic jump in fitness from one year to the next. Who know's what the answer is as far as testing goes....

I read a recent article in Slowtwitch in which a leading Bio-ethicist, Thomas Murry, PhD takes an alarming stand on the use of performance enhancing drugs. The problem is this: Should aging athletes have, with doctor's prescriptions, the ability to take otherwise prohibited drugs to cure or help their ailments brought on by the years and still compete? I think Dr. Murry uses Aging athletes as an example, but carries his argument over to all athletes with a prescription.

Thomas Murry writes: So, what does all this mean for the aging athlete? If someone has a clear medical need for a drug that could also serve a performance enhancing purpose, the ethical case for permitting that athlete to use that drug at a therapeutically appropriate level is strong. If someone needs insulin to manage their diabetes, or as in one case I saw while serving on a USOC committee, testosterone to prevent feminization of secondary sexual characteristics after having both testes removed as treatment for bilateral testicular cancer, then, under proper medical supervision, they should be permitted to take the drugs they need.

I want to say, "clearly" here, but there is nothing really clear...still, treatment that includes otherwise prohibited performance enhancing drugs most likely will enhance the athletic performance of the individual taking those drugs. Sure, it will cure what ails him or her, but just because it was prescribed, does that give that person the right to circumvent the rules?

Thomas Murry goes on to write: Let me stop being, for the moment, a two-handed ethicist (“on the one hand, on the other hand…) and propose a rough principle here: If the drug proposed for use by a particular aging athlete is medically indicated to treat a disease, then the athlete should be permitted to use a therapeutic level of that drug; if the drug is meant to preserve the athlete’s health and well-being, and there is compelling scientific evidence that its benefits outweigh its risks for that population, then again the athlete should be permitted to use a medically sound dose. But, if there are no clear clinical indications or compelling scientific evidence, then athletes competing in masters’ level competitions should not use the drug. In this last instance, the risk is that flimsy science could be used to back drug use whose primary purpose and effect is sports performance enhancement.


Aging athletes have the same right to a level playing field as young athletes. A sensible policy towards dual-use drugs—drugs that have both legitimate medical uses but can also enhance performance—can help to keep that field as level as our years allow.

I completely disagree with his last paragraph - Aging athletes do NOT have the same rights, in the context of prescribed prohibited performance enhancers, as young athletes. Reworded, HEALTHY Aging athletes have the same rights as healthy young athletes to a level playing field. Is it too bad that a person is forced to be treated with a drug to maintain their health? Of course it is - it's too bad. But, once cured or relieved of the symptoms of the illness, that athlete, aged or otherwise, now has an advantage over everyone else. The prohibited drugs also enhanced that person's athleticism - and that's not fair - that's not a level playing field.

Athletes, aged or young, pro or amateur, taking prescribed prohibited performance enhancing drugs should be allowed to participate - Triathlon is all about overcoming obstacles and triumph over hardship - those people should, however, not be allowed to compete.

I feel it extremely important to discuss ethics and character from the refrence point of the Age Group Triathlete - we alone can postively effect our culture...left to it's own accords, culture of any kind tends be...less than ideal.

18 comments:

excel man said...

Hey Dude -

Thought provoking writing. I think all day at work. I like triathlon because not so much thinking is required. Train, race, repeat. No thinking.

You hurt my head with all of that duty, honor, haircut...integrity...of their own accord ("sua sponte" for all you latin speakers) stuff.

I think the bottom line is that there is not that much doping in triathlon because there is not that much money. When there is as much money in triathlon as professional cycling there might be guys (and gals) shooting up in T1.

I don't think you'll find many, if any, age groupers doping to get to Kona. That's a ridiculous risk and a ridiculous expense for no real gain. Is there such a thing as an age grouper hero?

Great cerebrations (that's a real word - maybe not a scrabble word though). :^)

Bigun said...

Thanks EM...but let me hit you with this, since you've been in green so long, and have missed some of the outside world...I know quite a few (more than 4...) guys in thier 30's and 40's who have taken and now take steroids for the sole purpose of LOOKING GOOD. Not for a Kona slot, not to even compete at body building - just to look better. Risk vs. Reward...the relationship is less ridiculous that you may think.

excel man said...

Oh my God. Guys take steroids to look good? Next you'll be telling me that guys are now shaving their legs too! No! Where are my blinders?...train, race, repeat...train, race, repeat....

Wendy said...

WADA allows for Therapeutic Use Exceptions at a level that would not be considered performance enhancing. So those who apply and are granted exceptions aren't circumventing a rule.

http://www.wada-ama.org/en/exemptions.ch2

Tri-Dummy said...

I think Exel Man would be surprised what age groupers would do for a Kona slot...and they don't drug test age groupers...

...at least I've never been.

Duane said...

Great post dude

JohnnyTri said...

Such a Heart Post.. great Job!

Integrity...

rockon`

J-Wim said...

I know it's kind of Pollyanna, but I would like to think it isn't really an issue for the average joe triathlete and I have very little respect for dopers. Victory through cheating cheapens the value of everyone's best efforts.
I do agree though that there is a place for medications necessary for medically necessary treatment (Epogen and testoterone spring to mind) and they should be exempted, although should provide a certification of need to a race official qualified to evaluate this.
Whew- deep thoughts by Jack Handy.... I need a tylenol now, ya gave me a headache from thinkin so hard.....

bigmike600 said...

Wow big boy. Once again you not only impress me with your athletic ability but your creative writing skills and your thought process on this. Bravo.. Bravo.. I do have to go with excel man on this though ...There is so little money involved here and I would like to think that the true motivation for people to triathlon is to see how far one can push their own limits drug free. Integrity counts and I see a lot of triathletes with it. Just my two cents and I tend to believe that most people are good and honest. The part of your post dealing with injured athletes who could benefit from using them for medical treatment poses a lot of thought provoking questions. If I was injured or had some disease that could help me first and foremost as a treatment and secondary effect was performance enhancing I guess I would always choose health and would I give up triathlon because I was "dirty"? I would always want to participate even if I was not be allowed to compete.
Nice post Bigun. You should change your moniker to Brain.

Ryan said...

I have noticed since I have started taking Thermotabs "sodium" I am tearing off 4 min miles at the 1/2 IM distance. So I started reading my bottle of thermotabs and opps, EPO made by Amgen. Thanks Amgen you make my Kona dreams come true!

Wendy said...

BigMike, the reason WADA allows for exceptions for drugs at therapeutic levels is they are not considered performance enhancing at that dosage level when treating a medical condition. They will of course show up in drug testing protocols, so athletes have to prove their diagnoses and apply for an exemption in advance of competition.

Drugs for conditions like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure, narcolepsy, hormone deficiencies, musculo-skeletal problems, renal transplantation, inflammatory bowel diseases, ADHD are allowable in international Olympic competition at therapeutic levels if an athlete applies for and is granted an exemption.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Bigun DOES shave his legs!

bigmike600 said...

Wendy
Thank you for giving me that info. I did not know that. I appreciate that.

Rocks said...

This might be the libertarian in me talking but I think performance enhancing drugs should be allowed. Everyone is blessed with a little thing called free will. You can choose to take performance enhancing drugs or not. Just make sure that all of the side effects are known. Then the individual is left to make a discussion and must deal with the consequences.

As far as competition goes I suggest two categories one for dopers and one for natural athletes. That model has already shown some success in bodybuilding, where there are open and natural competitions. An unfortunate effect of that though is that the prize money for the natural athlete is not nearly as high as that of the other competitors.

Tea said...

Bigun-I always enjoy reading your blog for just this reason. They are ALWAYS fun, though provoking, and teach me another way to look at an issue.
Thanks again for not disappointing...

Curtis said...

As a rank beginner who has diabetes, heart disease, and two flavors of cancer, I have been concerned about the level of medicinal therapy I ingest and the current situation of performance enhancements in sports. I support the concept of "particpate" over "compete with exemptions". The "compete with exemptions" option may entice someone (one being too many) to deviate from medical protocol in favor of an award at some time. One of the reasons we play this game is our health. It needs to be kept that way.

S. Baboo said...

Ok, so I started to comment and it just turned into a lengthy rant, which of course I will post on my own blog.

thanks for the opening.

ShirleyPerly said...

Excellent post. Unfortunately, I have seen several age-groupers cheat for much less than a Kona slot or big prize money. All it takes is knowing that they probably won't get caught.