If ESPN is doing one thing right, it has to be their 30 for 30 documentary film series. 30 films on 30 different subjects by 30 different directors. Each documentary that I have watched has been very compelling and informative, and I highly recommend watching them when you can.
Tonight's doc featured the eight athletes who participated in the 100m final at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. This was the race that featured Ben Johnson's unprecedented demolishing of the world record and subsequent gold medal. It also brought on the most thorough and media-scrutinized doping scandal in the days following, also featuring Johnson.
The 30 for 30 film interviewed all eight athletes, and each of them got into the sport in their own way. But each of them (except Johnson, who has already admitted to doping) talked about training "clean," even though half of them had been implicated in doping either in 1988 or following.
It was a little disheartening, as an Olympics fan, to see how blatant the cheating had been in the track and field circles. I'm sure that even now, athletes in every sport are taking something to try to get better. More athletes take them because they don't want to get left behind...the doping athletes are winning, while the "clean" athletes can't get ahead.
There was also tons of finger pointing. Carl Lewis, who was awarded the gold medal in the days after the race, kept to the high ground while looking down on Johnson. Johnson was equally critical of Lewis, claiming that one of Lewis' friends, Andre Jackson, spiked his beer before he took the test, and had done it many times before.
Considering I was very young when this all took place originally, this was a very new story to me. I had known about Johnson being stripped of his gold medal, but didn't know the whole story. I don't think anyone really "knows" the whole story, unfortunately. Even now, twenty-four years later, facts are shady.
And that will remain with any athlete that competes. We'll hail them for their accomplishments, and then feel wronged when we find out they were cheating. In third grade Reading basals that I use, there is a story about the Olympics. One of the supplemental stories is about how wonderful Marion Jones is as a track athlete. Do I teach my students that this story is false? That Jones actually was caught cheating and stripped of her medals? Or do I allow them to watch a documentary twenty years from now on Jones, and have them learn the whole story in the same manner I did?
It's all in the perspective. And this documentary, although excellently and thoroughly produced, still allows the viewer to make their own opinion about how they are going to take the information given. Do they shun the sports and athletes they love - or do they choose to hide it and move on?
What will you do?