Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Performance-Enhancing Drugs

(image: Roger Clemens, unamused)

The recent hubbub over performance-enhancing drugs has made many a sports-fan morose. If we take the long view, however, athletes have always probably been looking for an edge of some sort, and one wonders about the extent to which some of the drugs have a placebo effect. Also, think about all the bad and mediocre athletes who tried the drugs, only to find out they (the drug-takers) were still bad or mediocre athletes, except that they'd expended cash and ingested something awful.

I do remember with some amusement the Cold War Sports-Era, when some of the East Bloc athletes, especially some women, looked, well, unusual, but I reckon some athletes from the West were mischievous, too. Ya think?

As usual, I tend to focus on peripheral questions. For example, with regard to Barry Bonds, I always wondered why more players didn't imitate him by choking up on the bat, not by taking (allegedly!) performance-enhancing thingamabobs. Bat-speed seemed to be one key to Bonds's success. I don't know of another major league player who chokes up on the bat. In fact, most to the opposite. They get their hands on the knob of the bat itself.

At any rate, I decided to apply the contours of this sports-scandal to literature:

Performance-Enhancing Literary Scandal

Reports from Greece today allege Socrates
may have take the human growth-hormone,
HGH (not an inventive abbreviation). Owing
to an allergic reaction (the report continues),
Socrates may have had to employ Plato to
write the philosophy for which Socrates is
famous. Socrates, having also ingested hemlock
long ago, was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, communiques out of St. Petersburg
and Moscow suggest Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy
may have ingested steroids that helped them
double and triple the size of their novels. Elsewhere,
Faulkner and Joyce scholars are vehemently
denying that the impenetrable sentences of these
two Modern titans are the result of performance-
enhancing chemicals and not merely showing off.

Spokespersons for Thomas De Quincey and Charles
Bukowski said, "Read the books; then decide whether
the stuff we ingested enhanced or not. Also, shut up."
F. Scott Fitzgerald, speaking from West Egg in Heaven,
repeated his oft-quoted line: "First you take a drink, then
the drink takes a drink, then the drink takes you."*

*Quotable Men of the Twentieth Century, edited by Jessica Allen. New York: William Morrow, 1999, p. 13.
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