Doping & Masking


I don’t follow cycling. But I do know the name Lance Armstrong. I do know that he likes yellow. I do know that he is competitive and I do know that today I read an article about his refusing to combat the charges levied against him by the United States Anti-Doping Agency for doping in his cycling competitions, most notably seven (SEVEN!) Tour de France titles and a bronze Olympic medal.

According to the article, ten of Mr. Armstrong’s teammates were willing to testify against him.

Many people have suggested that Armstrong’s refusal to fight indicates that he is guilty.

In America, we have the presumption of innocence before guilt is proven. It’s one of our favorite legal tenets. It actually separates us from a lot of crazy countries.  I think it has an official latin name or Constitutional article number, but I don’t know that stuff. I know about things like great vacuums, how to make a killa PB&J, which are the best pencils and why I hate to do laundry or clean my house.

I don’t care about Armstrong, frankly.  My impression of him is one of a vain guy whose family and marriage were sacrificed at the expense of his vanity and glorious pursuit of greatness. He shacked up with Sheryl Crow. I don’t have a high opinion of her either. I say this because I am the Universal Arbiter of All That is Honorable, Just and True.

No, I say this because I’m sad that he let this shit get to his head. That’s what happens sometimes.

That said, before we start judging people — and I know this is a quantum leap — be careful: did you have coffee this morning? How much? Did it make you more effective at work? Do you take vitamins and supplements for your health or your ability to stay healthy? What about viagra? What about lunesta? What about sudafed? What about aspirin? How about “Five Hour Energy” (if you take that stuff, you can stop following my blog because just the ad campaign alone is not worthy of my snarling lip)?

We are an insatiable species. We are also hypocrites.

The thing is, we as humans have always looked for something outside ourselves to make us feel, do, perform, look, act, seem better than what we really are. Even if that means pointing fingers. I have no problem popping two Advil for my headaches or cramps. I have no problem taking calcium if it helps me fend off osteoporosis. I have no problem using mascara if it makes my lashes look fuller, plumper and healthier. The problem however manifests when the lashes get wet and I end up looking like Tammy Faye Bakker.

Tammy Faye Bakker – remember her? She believed her press too. And cornered the market on mascara.

I understand that athletic / performance-enhacing drugs, blood transfusions and steroids are completely different than what I’m talking about.

Sort of.

If Lance did it, and we suspect he did (along with so many other empty and vapid athletes out there) for money, fame, glory, whatever shame on him. And shame on us? People looked up to him. Maybe they shouldn’t? Do we need heroes? I like to think we don’t…

People don’t look up to me (well, maybe my kids do) but they don’t look down on me either if I take some aspirin to fend off pain or an extra cup of coffee (now) to supposedly ward off fatigue. I know the medicinal effect is false, and that in the case of caffeine the side effects are dubious. The aspirin is not actually solving the problem of my headache (stress) nor is the coffee helping my sleep-deprivation (don’t let child sleep on floor after 2am, he breathes like a dying flounder) but what they offer does keep me out of the newspapers.

Not so much with Lance.

I had to tape up my palms last night after rowing just so I could drive myself and my son home without stinging pain.

I have tape on my hands and fingers due to all the blisters I’ve gotten while sculling lately. Does it make me more of an “athlete” if I row without the tape? No. But I want to row, the tape helps it not hurt so much and I get to continue. Totally different than taking drugs, but still: masking.

So what do to now? Lance maintains his innocence and I have to hand it to him, if he’s lying, he’s got that denial streak going strong. May he live to 200 and build a boat to save humanity during a big storm. If I am still alive I will try to row for him. Do we support him and believe him or do we look sideways, wondering if it’s possible: seven times, historic, ten people alleging doping (jealousy on their parts?), supposedly irrefutable evidence and an aggressive USADA… the evidence seems compelling. He’s fought every other charge, why not this one?

At the finish line (sorry, had to go there), none of this matters to any of us on a personal level; what matters is Character and if we do what we say we do and we do our best when we try. So you only get to point at Lance if you’ve never done anything extrinsic or supplemental to make yourself “better” than what you actually are, feel or think.

Again, a quantum leap, but essentially not. Be authentic. That means: stop the vitamins, the supplements, the prescriptions, the meetings, the meditations, the drugs and the negative self-talk… easier said than done I’m afraid.

Maybe admitting that what you/we are is enough is a start. Maybe seeing ourselves as heroes is asking too much? Seeing others as heroes could be Masking too much…

Thank you.

About Grass Oil by Molly Field

follow me on twitter @mollyfieldtweet. i'm working on a memoir and i've written two books thus unpublished because i'm a scaredy cat. i hail from a Eugene O'Neill play and an Augusten Burroughs novel but i'm a married, sober straight mom. i write about parenting, mindfulness, irony, personal growth and other mysteries vividly with a bit of humor. "Grass Oil" comes from my son's description of dinner i made one night. the content of the blog is random, simple, funny and clever. stop by, it would be nice to get to know you. :)

4 responses »

  1. That Tammy Faye picture is burned into my brain. Put down the mascara! Great post with more questions than answers. Certainly gives me something to think about as a coffee consuming, vitamin popping gal. How far should we push ourselves to be better or the best? Where is the line that says we’ve gone too far and crossed into an unacceptable level of performance enhancement? When can we say this is me and I am enough?

    • Hey there! this comment of yours got slammed into my spam folder for some reason. I have a good friend who wrote to me privately about this post and it was an amazing response and it boiled down to legality in terms of what we are willing to do to ourselves. The other point is that Lance knew what he was doing as the USADA makes it very clear about what constitutes PEDs and tampering. I wondered that too as I wrapped my arm again for the frigging tennis elbow. I think if we are in pain or medically in need of these things then I guess it’s OK. I mean, we shouldn’t feel bad about brushing our teeth or having the dentist apply fluoride, right? If the genetics are strong, as in Jack LaLanne’s case, who’s to say 90 push-ups a day is a bad thing? The doping for sure is cheating. You pose good questions too. 🙂

  2. I do love you, Molly, I do. The Tammy Faye Baker picture made me burst out laughing. You help me not take myself so fucking seriously.

    • Good! It is critical to not take yourself so seriously. There are things we are meant to accomplish and then things we are meant to simply enjoy in life. Older I get, the more I realize that when I sweat stuff, it usually has nothing to do with my greater reality. And sweating it changes nothing.

      Let’s go put on some mascara … (talk about taking things seriously…)


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