The straight dope is I'm an Olympics sceptic
TIPPING POINT:No amount of denial can wipe way the four decades of scandal that have shown that these Games are dirty beyond belief
MAYBE IT’S the pervasive bleariness of this journalism gig. Or years of hanging around the gee-gee game where stroke-merchants get described as shrewdies instead of cheats.
Maybe it is age, or a bilious disposition, or listening to too much PR flannel over the years. It could be a cop-out. After all, cynicism is hardly constructive, and it’s not particularly attractive either, unless you’re Bill Murray who’s always good for a happy ending by the time the credits roll.
But unless one really wants to believe otherwise, or has an agenda, or simply lives in a particularly cushy incubator where the air is foul-free, eventually there’s no getting away from having to at least consider the old chestnut: that cynicism is really an unpleasant way of telling the truth. And the truth is I couldn’t give a fiddler’s about the Olympics.
I’d like to. I really would. And there’s still some credible stuff in it, just not what it’s all really about, the serious second-week meat of track and field. It used to be fascinating, or at least watchable, back in the day. But that was through a childish prism. Even juvenile eyes though could process suspicion about an East German sprinter looking like Burt Reynolds’ butch older brother taking part in the women’s 200 metres.
However that was a hopelessly two-eyed view. The grown-up third eye of athletic authority saw much more, peering into the Olympic soul, all Baron de Coubertin, and slow-mo images to a Chariots of Fire soundtrack, and assuring us they knew better.
Where’s the evidence they argued. Look at all these passed tests. Name names, give us evidence, put up or shut up. It’s so easy to fling accusations but they don’t stand up against the ever more fancy testing machines we have whirring round and round.
Actually that’s now as familiar a pre-Olympic drill as lighting the flame: cameras invited to ooh and aah at ever bigger scientific centres of excellence, with more and more white-coats padding noiselessly around vials, proclaiming how if anyone cheats on the track, they will be found out in the lab.
And then a few years later we find out they couldn’t test for a specific kind of juice, a juice somehow, remarkably, the lab didn’t know about, but was being downed like Lucozade by every pimple-necked streak of gristle from Grenada to Guam. Sorry about that chief.
That’s what I mean about cynicism being unattractive. It twists the mind and the mouth. No one ever wants to mooch bitterness.
Except this isn’t really cynicism. At most it’s cynical-lite. A real cynic expects nothing else than deceit. Most of us are just sceptics. We want to watch London 2012 and believe what’s happening but we have got to a stage where the question marks are so big it’s necessary to lean around them just to see what’s happening. And that makes for a hell of an uncomfortable view.
All this is of course desperately unfair on those athletes who will compete clean. They’re tarred with the same brush of suspicion and that’s the real tragedy, not whether or not us couch-bound zombies are prepared to watch 10 hours of corporate-sponsored “faster-stronger-higher” every day for a fortnight, or make do with Sybil Martin. But that’s what nearly four decades of scandal can do. No amount of denial can fully convince.
After all Marion Jones denied, denied and denied. Only when the Feds got heavy threatening jail did she own up. And she never failed a test. Ben Johnson denied. Everyone denies. It’s invariably someone else’s mistake, some malevolent invisible force spiked their toothpaste or brushed past them in a crowded street and injected EPO into their keester with a blood-tipped umbrella.