Saturday, July 05, 2008

At least I'm not the only one....

Last night I saw a feel-good headline from the US Olympic Swimming Trials:

Torres, 41, still making big splash
My first thought was of Roger Clemens and his improbable dominance beyond the age when most athletes in their respective sports had retired. We now know that Clemens had been using drugs to enhance his performance. Barry Bonds similarly dominated his sport at a similarly advanced age, too.

Torres is making her record setting fifth Olympic Team. She has already retired twice and last competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where she won five medals (2 Gold, 3 Bronze) which made her the most decorated female athlete of the Games that year. She has won nine medals over-all in an Olympic career that started at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Regardless, Torres schooled the youngsters this time around. The second and third place finishers were aged 25 and 22.

Naturally, I thought of drug use. So has everyone else, it seems:
OMAHA, Neb. -- Even with a racing cap over her ears and her head in churning water, Dara Torres could hear the rumors.

When you're 41 years old and capable of breaking American swimming records, when you've recently had a baby and surgeries on your shoulder and knee, when you're one of only five women who have swum 50 meters in less than 24 seconds at a time of your life when you should be president of the PTA and organizing local chapters of Oprah's Book Club -- people are going to whisper: She's doping.
Rumors had actually started after her performance at the Sydney Games in 2000. To combat the rumors this time around Torres has taken extraordinary measures:
But instead of being heralded, her triumph over age is being met with suspicion, by fans and reporters and fellow competitors who have watched one unbelievable sports achievement after another circle the drain in a wash of chemicals. Torres said that after an initial draw of six blood vials, she has been tested "six or seven times" since April, "12 to 15 times" since March."

I want to be an open book," said Torres, who has a 2-year-old daughter. "I told them, 'I'll do whatever you want to do.' ... I get blood drawn. I give urine samples. They come on my days off. They come at 6:30 in the morning. They come at 3 in the afternoon. They come any time. Sometimes I have to turn around and come home and get tested. Sometimes I have to go to the lab. It's a pain. It's a real pain. But I asked for this. I want to prove I'm clean."
This still won't end the rumors, though. Lance Armstrong was the most tested athlete on the planet during his series of Tour de France victories and the rumors concerning his alleged drug use have never been quelled. The sad truth is that the only way the cloud of doubt around Torres will go away is if she actually gets caught doping. Otherwise her accomplishments will always be viewed with suspicion. That is just one of the downsides of modern medicine and technology: We never know whether to celebrate someone for pushing the limits of human accomplishment or chastise them for stepping over the line.

1 comment:

AnastasiaBeaverhausen said...

Dara Torres did us proud! Let's hear it for middle age!