There is an interesting video on the TMZ website featuring Laird Hamilton talking about the use of performance enhancing drugs by pro athletes. It went live more than a year ago and got very little play in the surfing world, or indeed any play besides that of TMZ. In the interview, Hamilton comes very close to endorsing the use of PED’s in pro sports, even interjecting the imaginative analogy, “Rocket ships need rocket fuel to go into space,” which insinuates that athletes cannot perform the way they do based on training and diet alone.
By no means is Hamilton’s statement an unqualified endorsement of drug use, as some have since implied. Instead, it seems to come from a person who knows very well, and perhaps resents, what it means to constantly be expected by sponsors, advertisers, and the public to strive to some ill-defined act of greatness on the sliding scale of extreme. Once you are pushed to the very margins of that scale in order to maintain a whisper of relevance in the annals of your sport’s history, drugs make as much sense as anything else. Laird implicitly blames the general public for this escalation of performance expectations – society created this type of athlete, he seems to say. Now, in its infinite hypocrisy, it is cutting them down. This is true to a point, but it’s not the whole truth.