On his latest episode on HBO, John Oliver’s feature piece tied together both some history on the use of performance enhancing drugs in sport as well as the absolute clusterf**k that is currently embroiling the forthcoming Olympics.
You’ve probably read much of the story, but it includes Russian secret police, silenced whistleblowers, bribery and fraud throughout the chain Olympic chain of command, and more.
Oliver shows video of the hole in the lab wall that secret-police types used in a trafficking system to protect doped Russian athletes from detection. It’s really depressing.
As I’ve mentioned in a recent column, I used to care a lot, but my exhaustion with the topic has reached a tipping point, one that has been (to be frank) quite freeing. The one emotion I still have is that I feel terrible for all the clean athletes that have been screwed over. But as Oliver’s report shows, there’s no end in sight. With the Olympics alone, so many billions of dollars flow to the IOC and television that, as WADA’s Dick Pound said in a clip on Oliver’s show, the truth is that there are two many throughout the staggering Olympics bueracracy that don’t want doping to be stopped that there is any change that it will be significantly changed.
For a deep read on the subject, cycling journalist Mark Johnson has packed in all of his reporting—supporting Pound’s thesis—into Spitting in the Soup: Inside the Dirty Game of Doping in Sports.
I’m going to read it so that I can hold up my end of a conversation the next time the news hits that another athlete is banned, but here’s some description on the books content from the press release.
Spitting in the Soup includes chapters covering the origins of doping, Pierre de Coubertin and the myth of fair play, amateurism and the commercialization of the Olympic Games, the day that drugs became dangerous, the criminalization of performance-enhancing drugs, the accidental birth of the World Anti-Doping Agency, Cold War pressures and the Eastern Bloc sports performance machine, anabolic steroids and American weightlifters, the Amateur Sports Act, blood doping for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, Dr. Ferrari and the EPO generation, the U.S. War on Drugs, amphetamines and the dietary supplement industry, DSHEA and baseball’s salvation, genetically modified athletes, and the American prescription drug culture.