|This photo will summarize my summer, and summer-ize my summary.|
The first time I heard about doping, I was in 10th grade gym class. Some of the football players and wrestlers had discovered steroids, and we were being chastised as a class and warned of their dangers: acne! tendonitis! boys start looking like girls! (sounds like an improvement to me) hypertension! baldness!
|Side note: I found a phone app in which you can experiment with baldness. Not bad.|
The lecture was based on personal harm. Don’t take performance-enhancers because they are dangerous to you, which is, in most cases, true. Baldness is true. Acne is true. What we didn’t discuss, and which I wasn’t mature enough to articulate at the time, was the moral implication of these things beyond personal utility. You are not the only one harmed by performance enhancements. They're an act of injustice against your opponents, and against the integrity of the sport more broadly. And it’s a conversation we need to be having because every week I read about more cases of athletes doping in the news.
In athletics, winning isn’t the sole objective, or historically, a suitable objective at all. (In Plato's Republic, for example, true athletics is dance, an artistic expression.) It’s the physical complement to the liberal arts in a full, human education. It affirms our physical humanity. It habituates discipline and virtue.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, "It is only we who play badly who love the Game itself."
It is nice to win, and I work hard to do that--really, really hard. But athletics, for the sake of winning alone, is ephemeral. It's the sort of mentality that inspires shortcuts. And every running ribbon I've ever won is currently sitting in a box in my dad’s attic, being eaten by squirrels.
I'm not sure whose role it is to instruct the culture of running in our country, but things need to change. It's clear we have an integrity crisis.
|High school me - not interested in steroids because there's less of a culture of drugs in academic decathlon.|
USAD[A lot of fun]
A few months ago, on a Friday, I attended an admitted students dinner for Baylor’s philosophy PhD program. I was excited to be there, standing on the threshold of a streamlined life of books.
As I left my apartment to head to the dinner, I paused to send a text message to Anti-Doping to update them on my location change, reflecting briefly upon the fact that no one was likely to read it. It had been a few months since USADA had come for me. In December, my monitoring was renewed for the year, but I hadn’t heard from them otherwise.
And really, I imagined that it would be odd if USADA did come. At the time, I wasn’t racing much. They were effectively monitoring whether I was doping in my role as Medieval History teacher, and while I take that role seriously, I’m going to go on the record and guess that steroid-taking medieval historians are exceptionally rare.
Anyway, there is a philosophy professor named James K.A. Smith, who talks about “liturgies” in a quotidian sense—the activities you do on a regular basis that become reified, or hardened, into regularities in your life. They practically become physical objects because they’re so dependable. I roll my ankles out before I put on my sneakers. I repeat introductory phrases every day to my classes. I text USADA every time I leave the house. It’s not a question of remembering anymore. It’s a liturgy.
Well, at this point, I sent the text but had assumed USADA had forgotten me. Because unlike when you’re a teenager and you text your mom to tell her that you’ve made safe passage to the library, USADA never texts back.
USADA has all the qualities of a friend without social etiquette: it never responds to my text messages and then shows up periodically unannounced, usually when I’m in my pajamas.
I arrived to the dinner. We were just beginning to enjoy the meal when I received a
death sentence text
message from my husband:
Once USADA agents arrive at your doorstep, they lock into that global position and begin a 60-minute timer. If you do not appear within that time period, you default on your test. You fail. For a few harried minutes, I tried to conceive of an unthreatening way to tell my prospective professors that I needed to go take a blood test for drugs, but that I wasn’t guilty of anything and it was just a routine procedure. I have scruples. But then I thought better of myself because first impressions stick.
“Hey, where did Sabrina go?”
“She just needed to go get a drug test because her assigned drug testers are here to make sure she’s clean.”
“Ah, okay. Normal things.”
(This is how the conversation could have gone, best case scenario.)
I resolved to remain where I was and to fail the test—for the sake of being a normal person, lest I turn into a pillar of salt like Lot's wife, looking backward and compromising the integrity of my future. For the rest of the evening, my affect flickered between elation and despair, and I mentally composed a eulogy to my running.
The night ended. I had a
magical metaphysical evening with the philosophers. As I walked to my door, I heard a small
“Sabrina, is that you?”
The USADA agents waited for me! I ushered them inside like Penelope of the Odyssey with her suitors. They told me they had received my location update immediately after they arrived. I’m not sure how. But it was time-stamped appropriately, so I was not at fault. They were locked into my apartment’s GPS location, so they decided to wait for me there until I got home. It was a best case scenario, since had the delay not occurred, there would have been doping agents looking for me at the academic dinner. Awkward. Very difficult to explain.
This summer, I hope to compete in a couple of the Texas night series runs, and I am continuing to coach cross-country. There is a Texas 100-miler at the end of August that looks wonderful. And since I haven't blogged about it, my last race report (from April, oops) is below.
Race: Toughest 'n Texas
Date: April 11, 2015
Results: 1st place female, 2nd overall
Fact: The race had some ups and downs, but none of them had to do with my feelings.
|Ups and downs, the elevation profile.|
| This is my GPS data of the course map. It looks a lot like unwound DNA,|
something I could only appreciate retrospectively.