Performance Enhancing Drugs

They buried actor Heath Ledger today. He had died of an accidental overdose of prescription drugs: a cocktail of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs and pain killers. I’m no big Heath Ledger fan or anything, but the story of his death is all over the news, and is somewhat unavoidable. There have been a lot of news stories on drugs and our “entertainers” and it’s got me to thinking about the new buzz phrase of “performance enhancing drugs.”

It’s all over sports: you name a sport and someone out there is “cheating” by using steroids to be a stronger, bigger, better athlete. Football players are supposed to be raging animals with veins pulsing from their sweaty foreheads, ready to tear the opponent’s head off at coach’s first instruction. They are our gladiators, our entertainers and are we not entertained? Was the Super Bowl not more fun than Super Tuesday? So it’s no surprise that steroid use has leaked over into other equally physical but less violent sports. Anything to get ahead, to make that extra million, really.

But I was a little puzzled by the intentions of another somewhat-related investigation: Steroids Beyond Sports, accusing a handful of musicians of using these same performance enhancing drugs and, thusly, faking audiences out. Now let’s think about this: what does a steroid do except build muscles and maybe boost energy? They make you stronger, they don’t make you a better singer, a better songwriter, more coordinated as a dancer. They don’t enhance tone, rhythm or pitch. So how, exactly, are we being faked out? If this were the case then shouldn’t, each and every celebrity that’s had a Botox treatment or cosmetic surgery be incriminated as well? That’s not real either.

The most troubling part of this story was the fact that each person they incriminated was black. And, of course, ultra-conservy Fox News was all over it. Luckily no one followed suit, and the sensationalised nothingness faded beneath the frenzy of a false American stock market crash.

So should Heath Ledger be posthumously stripped of his Acadamey Award, seeing as how it’s now proven that he was influenced by all those drugs? An altered demeanour or temperament surely could be categorised as “performance enhancing”? What is a celebrity without their, well, personality? Notice, also, that Britney has never once been accused of existing in an “enhanced” state: her wasted charisma is everything that we hang on to.

And then shouldn’t we sue food companies for putting turnips in our French fries, corn in our hamburgers and plastic in our low-fat oil? That’s all fake too. And don’t our politicians lie and never keep their word? Oh, quality and honesty of performance is a much a deeper problem than anyone is prepared to admit to.

It’s ridiculous to live in a fairytale reality where the entertainment industry – music, movies, sport, even online gaming – is not plagued by drug use, cheating and other social anomalies. We love to watch the failure of others, just as we adore the fictionalisation of success. Keeping up appearances and scratching our way to the top: all just part of a human nature that we cannot live without.

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