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See Inside April 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Nothing beats the excitement of honest, steroid-powered competition


Scientific American’s resident skeptic Michael Shermer writes about the doping scandals plaguing cycling, baseball and other sports, and he suggests how to curb those practices. Please ignore him. It would be a global tragedy if his meddling were to ruin the most eagerly awaited competitions of 2008.

No, not this summer’s Olympics. Those will of course be modestly fun demonstrations of physical prowess. The pursuit of true excellence is cruel and unforgiving, however, which is why devotees of the absolute best in athletic achievement instead turn to the quadrennial Hyper Games.

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” said Vince Lombardi, and those are the words that the elite competitors of the Hyper Games live and frequently die by. The Hyper Games honor those who can run fastest, jump highest, lift the most weight or otherwise excel—by any available means. Competitors are free to use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs as they see fit, without stigma or penalty. They can also undergo surgical or genetic enhancements.

The Hyper Games are for any spectator who has looked at sprinters and wondered whether they could go faster if their leg muscles contained cheetah DNA. Or speculated about how many tons a determined weight lifter could vertically press before his spine snapped. Or thought that Barry Bonds might show some potential as a hitter if he would just put on some muscle.

Traditionalists spurn the methods of Hyper Games athletes as cheating. But to the contrary, the Hyper Games are fairer than conventional sports. Remember Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius, who was denied permission in January to race alongside other world-class runners simply because his feet are carbon-fiber prosthetics? (Both his legs were amputated below the knee in infancy.) Judges ruled that because the springiness of his prosthetics is greater than that of flesh and bone, Pistorius should be barred. Apparently his prosthetics aren’t defective enough for him to run against people who have feet. Yet judges routinely turn a blind eye to the natural biological advantages in muscle strength, tendon springiness, aerobic capacity and other traits that winning racers enjoy.

The Hyper Games recognize the hypocrisy of extolling the “purity of sport” when modern athletes aggressively seek every advantage they can find, on and off the playing field. They do not compete nude like classical Olympians: they wear running shoes, they box with gloves, they vault on poles of space-age materials. Swimmers shave off their body hair to reduce drag in the water. Baseball pitchers undergo “Tommy John” surgery that replaces a ligament in their elbow and supposedly gives them better fastballs. Top athletes and their coaches routinely use every available method of training, nourishing and otherwise grooming their bodies and psyches that is legal (or undetectable).

Critics sniff that the Hyper Games are hurtful to the athletes. But are conventional sports much better? Football players end up crippled with arthritis. Basketball players destroy their knees. Hockey players lose teeth. Boxers accumulate brain damage from uppercuts, as soccer players do from heading the ball thousands of times.

The Hyper Games do not inhibit athletes with arbitrary definitions of “fairness” or with patronizing safety rules. They welcome anyone willing to push performance to unparalleled heights, limited only by imagination, ambition and determination. They are thus more truly American than other sports. In short, the Hyper Games are superior to the Olympics in every way: more amazing, more dramatic, more memorable. They even occur earlier. The Olympics do not start until August. The opening ceremonies of the Hyper Games are on April Fools’ Day.

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