Ok, an athlete is caught using illegal performance enhancing drugs and is banned for 2 years. His governing body has an official ruling that athletes who are found to have a positive drugs results from testing can return to athletics in 2 years and will not be permitted to qualify for or compete in Olympic Games.
The banned athlete returns to the sport after his ban and is aware that testing is going to be very stringent with him when he reappears on the circuit.
The media demonizes him and promoters bar him from attending further meets, even though his 2 year ban has expired.
This article is not in support or in any way condoning the use of chemical enhancements in sports – it is about overcoming the use of them and regaining what you never thought you could achieve without them and the mental state plus performance excellence you have to produce to do that.
Something which has not been explored nor commented on is what it has taken that athlete to return to the sport. Is that athlete not in fact and example to those who had thought about using performance enhancing drugs, because he was caught, is no longer using them and managed to produced and exceed his performance when he was using them? Is this not a clear message that there are ways of producing performance without needing to use them?
In my line of work I deal with many people over a number problems including sport performance. I teach how to elicit your optimal performance state from mental state base don the fact that your brain is in fact the one that produces the performance and the body, if mechanically able, will then follow suit. That is an extremely basic description.
Now lets take a look at this.
If an athlete has had success but seems to be hitting a barrier to just take his performance to the next and gold medal winning level, he has two choices at that time. He either looks at technique, form, mental state, mental blocks, barriers, natural ability OR he looks for a short cut.
Unfortunately, some people take the short cut and decide to use various forms of performance enhancement by way of chemical. If they continue to take them and increase results, it is difficult then for the athlete to tell what his real capability is, where his true ability level really lies.
Most of the performance drugs available increase protein synthesis and recovery, aiding the rebuilding of muscle tissue more quickly and stronger each time that athlete trains and breaks it down. There is only so far you can increase your performance based on purely a physical increase in power.
Where a lot of the increased performance lies is the continued learning of the rest of the body neurologically that it can perform at that level and build consistently on those new connections being built. As yet, there are not any drugs which can alter the chemical production in the brain NOR the new building of neurological connections with increased mechanical ability. This comes form a climbing self belief and confidence which also adds to the performance and the belief in their new found ability.
This is where I have problem with the current situation.
When an athlete makes a comeback from a time when they did use drugs, they are in fact coming back from a major disadvantage.
Firstly, many don’t even attempt to compete again without chemical assistance as they do not believe they can reach the same level.
Secondly, if they do attempt it, they actually have no idea where their capability really lies so their confidence in what they can really achieve is seriously diminished. The mental side of competing is critical. If your mind set has any negative beliefs about your goals or ability, you will never achieve them. It your performance has any blocks or limiting decisions about what you can attain in terms of results then you will never make it.
Athletes are sensitive to pressure, environment and any self doubt can be fatal to the long term winning ability.
For an athlete to come back and surpass their previous results, this time without the use of chemicals is not only to be applauded, but surely credit must be given that they even tried especially as at that point you don’t know if you will ever achieve what you have done before. Remember, for someone who was so publicly was banned, putting yourself on the line not knowing if publicly you will be seen to not reach the level you did before is a real career breaker or maker. Knowing that if you don’t reach the same level or exceed it, it will mean public humiliation and the knowledge that you will be judged as not having the natural talent without the drugs. Now that is pressure.
From work with so many athletes and other clients with varying conditions and problems, I have seen repeatedly the improvements athletes can make by changing their mental state to unlock their real potential and until more education about our mental to physical connection and real performance ability is better publicized, performance enhancing drugs will always seem like a good option to those who don’t believe they can do it without them and the elite tier will still be only people who have access to that information and coaching from people like myself.
So, before you criticize athletes like Dwain Chambers who come back after being banned, take a second to wonder what it has taken for him to return and where he has had to come from to make it back. Isn’t he sending out a clear message saying that you don’t need the drugs and he has learned from his mistakes and “look what he can do” with them?
We do not and should not condone drug use in sport, but until people can see what can realistically be done without them, how are those tempted to use them going to be able to see their alternatives and what can be truly achieved without them if we don’t have examples?