Olympic weightlifting, Athlete doping and corrupt boards

Oh My!

What a world we live in these days. Seriously!

Gyms closed down for far too long due to pandemic, then reopened (some closed permanently), and now gyms are being shut down again in Ontario and other parts of the world. And yesterday, we find out of yet another moment where politics and greed are getting in the way of athletic progress.

The International Weightlifting Federation has recently ousted two interim roles that were put in place due to corruption, bribery, doping scandals and more. These leaders in the interim roles were helping make substantial progress in cleaning up the sport, seeking retribution for the athletes directly impacted by competitors that are/were doping and helping clean up the perspective of Olympic weightlifting in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee.

Finally! People in a position of power doing what is in the best interest of the masses that they are there to represent, protect and stand for. But alas, nothing good lasts forever does it.

Currently, Olympic weightlifting stands a chance of being dropped from the Olympics due to the rampant doping infractions that are happening. You can read more about the challenges that one of the greatest sports in the world (biased, I know) is facing here.

And here. And here.

To my point, I have been thinking about this since the news dropped and the Olympic lifting lifting community has turned on it’s head in frustration. From an executive standpoint, I have no power (I am no executive). From a coaches standpoint, all I can do is hope that my athletes understand the impact doping can have on their life and that they don’t choose that route (if they do and I find out, they will be removed immediately). From an athlete standpoint, because I know I will not make the Olympics (that ship has sailed), all I can do is continue on my path of competing clean and go back to a guest blog post I wrote for my former coach, now CEO of ALTIS, Stu McMillan on reactions to Lance Armstrong and his doping violations…
{ full blog here }

I gotta live with that…500 words from Lisa Szabon-Smith

(Stu originally set up his blog to be 500 words or less, so this perpetual rambler has challenged herself to do just that. 500 word response to a black cloud that hovers over not just the cycling world, but every athletic world…)

“I gotta live with that”: Five words that trickled from Lance Armstrong’s lips as he shared with Oprah what 99% of the world already knew to exist. 

These are words I have chosen to think about before making any choice in my life:

Can I live with this?
Can I continue to live my life with the step I am taking right now? If I even falter at answering YES then I hope to the heavens I will stop. (I went through the same process when deciding to close the gym)

I’m a clean athlete. I even refused Creatine for the lack of long-term knowledge on what the increased intake (additional to that of which my body naturally produces) would do to me. The most I supplemented with was protein and a one-time ingestion of Beta Alanine; of which the physical reaction from was enough for me to say “this is not for me.” 
I chose to be among the strongest females, third fastest female pilots (in a physical sense) and powerful athletes of the Canadian program at the time of my involvement with terms that I could live with.

There is no secret that there is cheating, banned substance ingestion, doping and many other unethical and down right inappropriate behaviors that happen in the world of sport. Cycling is not immune. Bobsleigh is not immune. Track and Field is not immune. No doubt swimming is not immune. We are all human and we make mistakes but are they mistakes that we can live with?

Despite being human and prone to making mistakes, we are still given the foundations and the ability to make choices; the right choices hopefully. 

We all like to win.

No high level athlete will tell you that second place, third, fourth and so on down the line is ok. No high level athlete will tell you that they can handle looking up to the top of the podium rather than looking down from the top. We all want to win.

But at what cost? 

Are we in a society that is so desperate to be number one that we make choices that 5, 10 years down the road we may never be able to look ourselves in the mirror again? At what level of desperation do we go forth and become frauds?

It seems to me that almost every person I have heard of, watched, or read about in regards to doping/cheating was already an amazing athlete before they began to dope. So what changed? 

What made this already powerful and talented athlete think, “If I take this banned substance – that I know is wrong – I’ll be #1”. Do they forget that there are always repercussions when dancing with the Devil?

Call me naïve or perhaps too grounded for ultimate success (after all, I missed out at going to the Olympics) but I’d rather know I missed the podium because I made a choice I can live with; not one that brought me a title that, in reality, 10 to 15 years later will be forgotten.

Because after all, I gotta live with that.

(510 words – I can live with that)

Think on this. Would you cheat in order to win?
If the answer is yes, I don’t want you in my corner, let alone the arena.
Boundary #1.

As always, conquer great things,

Do You Play Sports?

A lot of people will right away think of hockey, volleyball, baseball, basketball, soccer, etc. Team sports.

The usual sports. The ones we played when we were kids and the ones kids still play. Yes, there are exceptions, always.

But the other day I asked a preteen boy who decided to try Olympic weightlifting if he plays any sports.

“No, not really” was his response. So I asked how he stays active, if he does.

“I do karate.”

“Well that’s a sport,” I responded.

“Oh cool,” he said, then moved on to tying his shoes.

A few minutes later we were talking about previous injuries and he mentions that he broke his leg skiing.

“Um, skiing is a sport too. Do you ski?” I asked.

“Well, yeah, I guess,” he smiles.

Suddenly this boy who didn’t play any sports has realized that he actually does TWO sports. At this point, we could go into semantics about how I could have asked if he does any sports instead of plays any sports because of the implied meanings, but I’m not here to discuss the English language and I’ve already learned my lesson.

Instead, let’s talk about some sports that are sports even though the general population doesn’t follow them or maybe doesn’t even think of them as a sport. Because let’s face it, not all sports are team sports. And some people just simply prefer individual sports. I definitely fall in that category.

So how about ping pong (aka table tennis)? That’s a sport. (And also the only Olympic sport that is safer than Olympic weightlifting!) It involves physical activity, you need skill to play it, and you can compete in it or play it just for fun.

How about kayaking? Maybe not so safe in some situations. But also a sport with the same attributes as above.

The list goes on: archery, hunting, bowling, taekwondo, orienteering, golf, bouldering…

These are all sports. And they can all be done for fun as a leisure activity, or can be done competitively.

…powerlifting, weightlifting, roller derby, skateboarding, rollerblading…

Let’s stop putting “sport” in this tiny box of team sports that we know from when we were kids.

…BMX, surfing, golf, bouldering, horseback riding…

Expand your horizons. Try a few new sports or let your kid try a few new sports. Think outside the box.

Find something that fills your soul (or your kid’s soul) with happiness and keeps you active. Because not just sport, but a variety of sports, IS SO GOOD FOR YOUR BODY AND MIND!!!

The next time I ask someone about sports, you can rest assured that I will ask them what sports they DO, not what sports they PLAY, because not all sports play a game.

~ Coach Jen