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Since no one has risen in defense of the sport of swimming, I guess I’ll just do it myself:

Dear Muscleman,

Though you claim to have spent years as a competitive swimmer, you seem to have missed the most rewarding aspect of the sport – the competition against yourself. As you know, the most important benchmarks in swimming are your own personal best times. You’ve no doubt experienced disappointment after a win, or satisfaction after a loss. There’s a lot to be said for a sport that’s less about the best that can be done, and more about the best that you can do.

Buoyant in Baltimore

Buoyant, thanks for your note. I think you’re on to something here, but that you’re right for the wrong reasons.

I found a syringe in a gym locker today – a pretty disgusting reminder of how athletics at every level are tainted by performance enhancing drugs. Still, champions distinguish themselves through their mental game – the way they control their nerves and maintain focus – irrespective of suspicions of drug use.

Soon, however, even mental advantages may become obsolete. Take this fascinating article about the drug scandal sweeping the world of classical music. Musicians at every level are getting in shape for auditions and concerts not with steroids, of course, but with Inderal, a beta-blocker. This drug does a near perfect job of shutting off the symptoms of fear, doubt and anxiety.

While the calming effects of this particular drug make it useless in sports, a similar pill that leaves adrenaline glands untouched is surely on the way. With drugs creating artificial results both physically and mentally, the only meaningful measure of success will indeed be your own personal best.

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One Comment

  1. I always learn something after reading your post. I enjoyed the 360 degree view of sports (and music) enhancement.

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