Doping Scandal at the 1991 Slackard's World Championships


I turned twenty-two in the year 1990. The wildness of my early years had dissipated somewhat, the hormones beginning to get a bit diluted, and I thought to myself that this would be a good time to go for the World's Professional Slack-Ass Championships. Age has a way of creeping up on us, you know, and I thought I'd better do this now, before I get too old and lose my edge. My boss at work urged me to quit and devote myself to this quest full time. He said it was a sure thing, that I had a bright future in Pro Slacking. That was encouraging, and with the enthusiastic support of family and friends I decided to go for it.

So I quit my job and went into training, long days and nights of not doing a damn thing, often not even getting out of bed for weeks on end. This isn't easy, no, this is not a sport for the faint of heart! Even for those of us to whom slackardliness comes natural, competition slacking takes long years of discipline and training and experience.

I knew I could win the big one.

Several months into my training routine, I was really coming into form. I could feel the wonderful softness in my muscles, the exquisite fog in my head. I could make myself do nothing for weeks on end. I had to hire a man to come and cut my grass for me so the city wouldn't condemn my house, make me have to move, and ruin my training regimen. I sought inspiration. I listened to blank tapes, spent hours, then days watching an unplugged TV. I had posters of my heroes on my walls. A couple of times I woke up and saw them.

I must say, all modesty aside, that I was good. I mean, I was DAMN good! I was in my prime, I was motivated, I was ready, I was going to show the world! I was going to bring Pro Slacking into the public awareness. I was going to go down in the record books as the worlds greatest slackard, the next time I woke up. Hell, I was so good the sanctioning body let me skip the National Slack-Offs and go straight to the Worlds. That was what I wanted. This was almost too good to be true! I was going to be famous, rich, sought after for endorsements!

Alas, victory was not to be mine.

I went to the Worlds. Well, I should say I was delivered to the worlds, no way I was going to make the effort to walk over there all by myself. Thankfully, I had a good, faithful, devoted coach who had this marvelous full suspension gurney to wheel me around on, with a handmade Reynolds 531 frame, chromed lugs, Campy hubs and a wonderfully long wheelbase and relaxed geometry and 650B tires. He could have pushed that bed all the way from Compiègne to Roubaix in an April snowstorm, and I would never have known a thing about it. It even had a split down the center of the mattress, to save my manhood, long before that became the next big thing.

We went through the registration, met the officials, met the timekeepers, had the rules read to me, and spent the next couple of days preparing, getting psyched down, planning strategy, and just generally not doing a damn thing. On the start day, my coach gave me a good, totally boring poop talk, and we went to the championship's venue ready to show the world just what epic slack is all about. At the appointed time the official starter, a droopy eyed old coot over in the corner, whispered “bang” and we were off. I shuffled my way across pit road, climbed into my gurney all by myself, for the first time ever, and immediately collapsed, utterly exhausted.

I was doing well, confident of the win, and slacking down a storm when a fly got into the arena and landed on my nose. It apparently stayed there a long time, several days at least, but finally started crawling around and found it's way to my ear, at which point I could not lay still any longer, the buzzing in my ear was too much. I rolled over and swatted and cursed, and that was it for me, my run at the championship was over. What a disappointment! All the training, all the preparation, the long practice sessions, all down the tubes just in a moment. And that was essentially the end of my career as a Pro Slack Ass. I just kind of lost interest after that, and haven't felt that old competitive urge in a long time now. Nowadays I just lay around the house, drinking rum and decaf and looking at the TV (I've plugged it in now) and thinking about turning it on, and reminiscing and grieving for the big one that got away.

And the other contestants, the ones who outslacked me. They all went on to break the existing world record times, but when the last fellow finally woke up, he soon asked for “another” benny. In an unusual display of astuteness, the line judge opened an eye and asked “what do you mean 'another' benny?” Now, it's quite common and accepted for a world-class slacker to ask for a little boost to help get going after a long, gruelling slack. It's frowned upon, but quite legal as it is considered merely a “recovery” aid when taken after the end of a competition. But this guy blew the whole game when he asked for “another.” A couple hours later the drowzy champion said it again, and the line judge opened both eyes and started asking questions. The listless champion started babbling and blubbering and eventually the truth came out...he had been doing benzadrine!

Now, I'm like you, wondering what the Hell does a champion slackard do taking benzadrine, but eventually we got the full story. What we learned is that these guys had been using amphetamines in training as a sort of reverse carbo loading. They would get stoked up, and keep a boiler full of steam going for maybe three or four weeks, timing their peak so that they came down just before the start of a major event. Then they were virtually guaranteed a long, smooth, championship coma. It seems to work; one guy from the '87 South East Regionals is still asleep.

A series of urine tests disqualified three of the fellows who finished after me, and that would have moved me into first place and a gold medal, but it took endless months for the Union Internationale Slackiste to sort out the mess, and for the Slack Arbitration Council to make their decisions. Meanwhile I was hungry, had run out of money, needed to pay the guy for cutting my grass, and had no choice but to take a job cleaning slabs down at the morgue. When the sanctioning authorities learned of this, when they learned that I was working, they stripped me of my professional status and there went my medal and with it my potential endorsements and fame and riches.

This is all very disconcerting, especially to one who believes in fair play as I do. Part of me wants to scream out against the dopers and cheats, but then I have to face the fact that we all do it to some degree. What really is the difference between cheating at the world championships versus taking a busload of Valium to get you through your phys ed class at school? Or downing a couple bottles of Gin just before an important job interview? Besides, I must reluctantly admit that once early in my career I yielded to the temptation to experiment with the dark side, and nearly OD'd on Perry Como, golf commentaries, and Chamomile tea. Never again!

The next time I get up, I'm going to launch a world wide crusade against artificially enhanced slackitivity and the use of performance diminishing drugs. I hope you'll all get off your lazy asses and join me.

Thank you for your time.



Author's note:

I have been a follower of professional bicycle racing since the early 1970's. There was a time, back in my bike shop days, when it was fun to open a box, pull out a bicycle, and find the frame tubes wrapped in Belgian newspaper, then find that the newspaper was the sports section full of bike racing results! I was in my twenties and discovered bicycle racing during the Merckx/Gimondi era. I naively believed that doping began and ended with Tom Simpson. Stupid me!

As time went on, though, I began to be disapointed with the ever increasing suspicions and revelations of doping within the peleton. Just little things at first, such as Bernard Thevenet's cortisone injections, then Moser broke Merckx's hour record much too easily, and eventually admitted to blood doping. Then Delgado's "look what I got away with" Tour de France win in 1988. Then came the nineties and EPO. How many young cyclists died from EPO use before their handlers and "doctors" learned how to make it work?

The athletes themselves are nonchalant about the whole issue. I love this quote from Felice Gimondi, interviewed here: " 'It was way too hot. At that time there were no anti-doping controls, so we were free to take what we wanted. The anti-doping controls started the next year, in 1966' [Anquetil led a rider's protest against them that year]."

I've argued with myself for years now over these issues...what is the difference between artificially enhanced performance during the day versus artificially enhanced recovery at night? Remember the PDM team's departure en masse from the 1991 Tour de France? And what exactly is the difference between an athlete enhancing his ability to do his job and me drinking coffee to get started in the morning and then drinking wine or brandy to relax at night in preparation for another round tomorrow? I have a glass of wine here with me now as I write this.

This becomes a sticking point for me. Forget the legalities of whether a certain chemical is ignored today then banned tomorrow, it becomes a more simple matter of, "Do I compete in my workplace to the best of my natural abilities, or do I compete using artificial enhancements?"

Really, it's all about MONEY.

It's all about being competetive in your chosen workplace, be it in a cubicle, in a classroom, on a factory shop floor or a bicycle. Do you need to get your truckload home on time? Hell, take little white pills and your eyes will be open wide...someone will even write a song about it! Don't feel like singing your songs in front of several thousand fans tonight? We've got something in the little bag here that will help the music go out and the money come in. Got an all day conference call going? Take a pill. Can't get get to sleep afterwards? There's a pill for that, too. Can't cope with the big bad world full of mean people? Just relax, we've got bottles and pills and syringes to make it all OK.

We can take this a bit further...in a job market that favors younger, sexier workers, a balding man gets hair replacement treatments, a woman gets breast implants.

But employ an artificial enhancement to help pedal a bike or row a kayak, jump higher or run faster than your competitors in that particular workplace and you're in trouble...if you get caught, that is. Some athletes can't take one little injection without getting in trouble, others enhance their way through their entire career without ever failing a dope test. Funny how that works, don't you think?

It's all about MONEY.

We can dope ourselves up and down, our entertainment stars can do it, our friends and co-workers can do it, our parents and our kids can do it, but our athletic "heroes" can't. Think about it.

I'm neither condoning nor condemning all of the various sorts of artificial enhancement available to us in all walks of life, and in all of our endeavors. I'm just sitting here thinking that it's not a simple black/white, right/wrong matter.

Anyway, just to keep the record straight, the little story above is not totally autobiographical...I've never worked in a morgue.

©2011 Henry Slater

 August 4, 2011 updates: Here are some links of interest. It's not just athletes.  
   Poker Players, et. al.  
   Classical Musicians  
Janurary 30, 2015:  Here's a good one.  
Silicon Valley
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