Modern Woman

As I watched clips of the world's most famous ex-cyclist speak with the world's most famous television personality, a question about drugs formed in my head: I wonder if Oprah's had botox?

We've known for years at least some of the performance-enhancing substances Lance Armstrong was running through his blood then draining out, including human growth hormone, EPO and testosterone.

Perhaps my experience as a sports journalist has made me overly cynical but after years of seeing one athletic star after another being busted for drugs, I just assume anyone who wins an international competition is on something and am pleasantly shocked if it turns out they're clean.

I just thought of it as the world-wide-wrestling paradox: everyone knows it's fake but it's still entertaining watching grown people in ridiculously tight lycra outfits do athletic things that the rest of us would have no hope of mimicking - even if we replaced our evening gin and tonics with cocktails of steroids and elephant hormones (mmm, I wonder if that would go better with a slice of lemon or an olive?).

Sportspeople taking drugs to boost their performance doesn't concern me nearly as much as the idea of intelligent, accomplished women choosing to inject poison into their foreheads to iron out the lines they've earned during their lives.

The ridges on my forehead are much deeper than they were when I was 20 but, at 40, if I were to expect any different I'd be as big a fantasist as the people who told themselves Armstrong was clean in a sport long-known for drugs.

Elite sportspeople live in a different world to the rest of us and, as an audience, we demand they go faster and higher than those who've come before them.

One of the many reasons Meryl Streep is still sought-after as a film actor is that she is capable of projecting emotion because her forehead hasn't been petrified into paralysis.

While people wail about Armstrong having set a bad example as a role model for children I have the same sort of fatalistic attitude as I do to men who run big corporations being caught for insider trading and feathering their own nests; it's the result of intense competition and people who take it too seriously trying to get an unfair advantage. I don't like it or think it's fair but I don't think it's surprising.

But what about the billions of dollars spent by cosmetic companies and the fashion industry helped along by the mainstream media convincing women, girls and, increasingly, boys that they need to be less lined, thinner, less hairy, younger, more made-up, less themselves, more plastic?

That's the real 'performance-enhancing' message western society needs to slow down.

If we stopped teaching our children to compete with each other about appearance and accept that they're beautiful the way they are then that would be a real win.


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