Olympic Medals or Olympic Spirit?

Do you think it is more important for the US to bring home lots of hardware (medals) from the 2008 Olympics or should we focus on having athletes with character who compete at their physical limits – legally? Vote in the poll at the right or leave a thought in the comments section.

We know that all athletes face the temptation to stretch the limits of the law to improve their performance. It has been in our face for most of the last year and even before. It seems almost every sport is taking some effort to curb the use of “performance enhancing substances.” It is a tough spot for athletes, they are expected to compete at a high level consistently. Sometimes those are almost super-human expectations. We have had some super-human stars who have broken barriers, while competing clean.

Things may have hit a tipping point when Marion Jones was stripped of her Olympic medals and subsequently her entire relay team was stripped (she is currently in federal prison for lying to investigators). That is a pretty sad day for sports. The US Olympic Committee has taken this into consideration as they prepare for the 2008 Games. In prior Olympics the USOC has made public goals about the number of medals they hope to bring home – focusing on winning, instead of the spirit of friendly competition. This focus on winning can be taken to the extreme and athletes will do anything to win or at least medal.

The Washington Post reported on this change in focus:

Besides abandoning the medal target, U.S. Olympic officials have instituted mandatory two-day seminars for U.S. athletes that address conduct, manners and ethics. They also have paid particular attention to the uniforms that more than 500 U.S. Olympians and team officials will wear at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Beijing to ensure they do not come across as too casually attired. U.S. anti-doping officials, meantime, recruited a dozen top athletes to sign on to a voluntary program in which they are subjected to extensive blood and urine testing to demonstrate that the U.S. Olympic team is committed to competing drug-free in Beijing.

The changes flowed in part from recognition that any controversy, cultural misstep or jingoistic display will be magnified during the first Olympics in China, considered a landmark Games that will be viewed by an estimated 4 billion people, which would be a record global television audience.

But they also reflect the USOC’s determination to distinguish the 2008 U.S. Olympic team from previous U.S. squads that came to be defined by cheating athletes, surly behavior and arrogance. Making such a distinction will be no small task, officials realize, given the continuing repercussions from the drug scandals of this decade.

I would say that cheaters never win and winners never cheat! That may be a little naive or cliche but I think it is more important to have integrity and character as you cross the finish line and to know that you gave 100%. If you give 100% of your natural ability and come up short, you go back look at what happened and try to fix it through training and hard work.

What do you think??

[tags] Olympics, Doping [/tags]

4 thoughts on “Olympic Medals or Olympic Spirit?

  1. Pingback: Olympic games updates » Blog Archive » Olympic Medals or Olympic Spirit?

  2. DPeach

    I have always thought the Olympics should be more than just a sporting event. I have never been to an Olympic event, but I have been to other large scale international events. To me these are about being good representatives/citizens of your country. I would much rather see an athlete who knew how to conduct himself in a respectable manner go to the Games as opposed to just someone who was good at his sport.

    People who cheat at events like this must realize that they are not only bringing shame to themselves, but to their country. I do not know the individual names of past Olympic cheaters, but I sure remember the countries they represent.

    I am excited to have men of character like Ryan Hall representing our country at the Games this year. I am sure there are plenty of other good representatives for us as well. But it only takes one idiotic athlete to taint the reputation of our country at the games for everyone.

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