On reinvention and doping in sports

Elite athletes, by definition, have followed the master’s path to achieve their elite level. And we all know that the better you get at something – anything – the harder it is to continue to make gains. The plateau gets wider and wider, and the improvements at the end of the plateau get smaller and smaller.
I’ve been giving the question of doping in sports a bit more thought since my post on the subject this past Monday. Actually, it was something that I wrote on Wednesday that kind of pulled it together for me:

It is all too easy for anyone at an elite level of achievement to believe, and act as if, there is nothing they need to learn from anyone else. Sometimes, though, to break through the inevitable wall and leave the plateau, you need to reinvent yourself, even if that means admitting to others that you need the help.

Unfortunately for these elite athletes, who are used to being on top of their field, reinventing yourself often results in a reduction in your performance. A runner, for instance, trying a new stride will quite likely run slower than usual for a while. Maybe for a whole season.

To many elite level performers, who are used to always winning, always breaking records, this slip – no matter how temporary – is simply unacceptable. At the same time, they are unwilling to accept the ‘permanent plateau’ that inevitably results if they change nothing. It is at this point that the irresistible lure, the siren song, of performance enhancing drugs takes hold.

The problem, of course, is that aspiring young athletes who have not yet found the path to mastery see performance enhancing drugs as a short cut to the end of that path. They don’t understand that for the elite athlete this is but a slip from the path, but for themselves it is a detour from which may never find their way back.

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