We have finally lost the battle to combat illegal performance enhancing drugs in sports. The use of steroids and blood-boosters have been rife in athletics and cycling for years. Then it turned out that baseball was just as bad as football – the American variety that is – for players turning to illegal substances for an edge. But now the last bastion of sporting ethics and professionalism has been shown to be rife with riff raff too. I’m talking poker here people!
That’s right. The occupation made famous by colorful characters with names like “Amarillo Slim” and “Devilfish Ulliot” has a dirty little secret of its own; players use performance enhancing drugs and other substances to give them an edge. Not just a few either. A new study by Nova Southeastern University found that 80 percent of poker players around the world reporting using some kind of drug or other substance to enhance their poker playing skills.
It’s the kind of revelation that would have Wild Bill Hickok spinning in his grave. A grave he was put in, I should mention, after being shot in the back during a particularly memorable game of poker.
What are these dreadful substances that poker players admit to using? Marijuana, cocaine, amphetamines, valium etc. It seems they can’t decide if they want to slow down or speed up. The researchers say the substances used could allow poker players to stay awake longer and focus and concentrate better. But while cocaine might and amphetamines might help you stay awake longer do they really help you focus more? As for marijuana and valium, I can’t imagine they would do anything except make you feel either really relaxed or drowsy or both. And certainly in the case of the former it would make you want to leave the table and go and find a pizza.
Whatever happened to just drinking a glass of whisky while sitting at the table. Or better still, a bottle of rye! They always used to in cowboy movies I grew up watching (that dates me right there doesn’t it). Of course in those movies the cowboys also used to wear clean neckerchiefs and the dancing girls, aka prostitutes, all had golden curls and were named Belle. But I digress.
Now, I can understand in a big stakes poker game, where huge amounts of money are at stake, wanting to stay as sharp as possible. But then wouldn’t you think they would do that by getting into training, not into drugs. You know, start by eating healthy food, instead of deep-fried everything, to keep their mind alert; drinking water instead of whiskey when they are sitting at the table; doing yoga in between hands to stay calm and focused. But no, they slipping out the back of the casino to light up a big fat joint or slipping into the bathroom to snort some coke.
Now, when athletes like Ben Johnson were caught using steroids I could understand why they did it. I didn’t approve but in a sport where fractions of a second are the difference between being a rich gold medal olympic champion and an also-ran, then there’s a real temptation to take something to boost you. Particularly if you think everyone else around you might be doing it too.
I can even understand the lure for baseball players like Mark McGwire who wanted to hit the ball harder, further, and more often than any other baseball player in history. It worked. But at a price. His name goes in the sports history books, but his reputation is also history.
But poker! If you need help sitting at the table for long periods then just put on some Depends and take No Doze.
Thank heavens there is one sport left where the athletes don’t use drugs. Darts. Those proud athletes are so drunk they wouldn’t not what to do with a joint if you handed them one!