It’s a little-known fact that in the 45 BC Olympics, top athlete Draco Dementia was kicked out of the Olympic Bear-Wrestling Singles competition, as well as the Synchronized Bear Wrestling Team event, after testing positive for monkey gland extract.
The refined extract, known in ancient Greek sport- ing circles as “Zeus Juice,” was said to have magical qualities and was therefore added to the list of banned performance-enhancing substances, along with gorgon scales and a poultice made from the hair of three-headed dogs found only at the Gates of Hades.
While acknowledging that he had indeed ingested this potent elixir, obtained from an illegal monkey juicing lab in downtown Athens, Dementia argued that he did so only to help him address a neighborhood minotaur problem.
The Olympic rules committee, however, said tough noogies and sent him packing.
And thus began the long history of conflict between the rule makers and rule breakers in Olympic sports, where the original ideal was to fill a stadium with naked people throwing, jumping, running and, uncomfortably, one would suppose, wrestling (“hey, Hey, HEY! Stop that!”).
Today, obviously, things have changed. Among other developments, clothes are required, although they may be specially made to improve the athlete’s performance, just as certain equipment has evolved as well.
The pole used by vaulters, for instance, was initially made of wood, then bamboo, then aluminum, then fiberglass and then carbon fiber.
Obviously, these changes drastically improved the human ability to propel themselves over a high bar, as was the clothing requirement, which ... never mind.
Similarly, Olympic swimmers initially competed in wool onesies, which were replaced by silk, then nylon, then a nylon-Lycra combo, and finally a spritz of non-stick cooking spray that looks like a suit but is more of a tattoo, really.
This, to get to the point, is why I’m disgusted with the Olympics. Officials contend they want to keep the sports pure by forbidding the use of, say, monkey gland extract by athletes, but are more than happy to let vaulters use a composite pole that will sling their spindly carcasses over a bar that’s 5 feet higher than the best-ever bamboo vault.
I don’t get it. In the scheme of things, what is the difference between a record broken because of enhanced equipment and one broken because of an enhanced human performance? What I mean is if everyone took monkey gland extract, wouldn’t that be a level playing field as well?
That, of course, is not going to happen because monkey gland extract fell out of favor long ago. According to Olympics archives, it followed the tragic death in 1908 of English runner Arnold Smythe-Feeble, whose famous last words were, “I say, I think gorilla gland extract would be even better.”