Contributing Writers DRUGS - February 2018

Doping Music

Written by Jonny Walfisz

I think Lance Armstrong deserves to keep his trophies.  

As a self-aggrandizing non-sports guy, it’s possible that I just don’t get it. The only conceivable justification I find is that, perhaps, he had an unfair advantage on account of his testicles. Specifically, how the void in place of his testicles may have made the ride a little smoother, on account of the bicycle seat’s continual insistence on being unendurably uncomfortable.

Moving away, momentarily, from the subject matter of balls and bicycles, I really do believe that Lance Armstrong earned his Tour de France wins.

The competition is straightforward: We’ve got a really long road here, and we’d love to know who can do the spinny thing with their legs the quickest to get to the end first. I may not be a sportsman, but the simplicity is elegant, also in its conclusion. Lance is the one who did the spinny thing with his legs the best.

Yeah, sure, he took performance-enhancing drugs, but most of the other riders did too. This only speaks to how widespread the issue is. So let’s be real here. When should a person’s achievement be disregarded because they enhanced their performance in some way? We decided that the line should be drawn before steroids, but after protein shakes.

Lance took his drugs and that’s one reason he won the Tour de France. But the guy that came second couldn’t have done it without the bowl of muesli he had that morning. I fully expect his tearful apology on Oprah to follow shortly.

What if the same arbitrary rules, so casually demarcating what constitutes real human achievement, were applied beyond sports?

Photo by Ryan Loughlin

While researching this article I came across a rather incredible piece of journalism by one of Duke University’s music professors Carl Schimmel on doping in the music industry. The article contained outlandish claims about the use of a drug called ‘ÜBERnunu’ by famed musicians, a rank including Schoenberg and John Cage. These composers have been using ÜBERnunu to stimulate their orbitofrontal lobe, giving them an incredible advantage in their composition abilities. As societal pressures rose around these figures they were forced to drop the drug and it quickly disappeared from the medicine cabinets of talented musicians worldwide.

Now to clarify, the article is a satire. Nu-nu is a reasonably obscure drug from the Amazon and its relation to John Cage is one that can only be found in this lone article. What’s clearly the issue here is that this so-called professor-cum-journalist wrote without the necessary eye-winking candour that typically comes hand in hand with a satirical piece. The mini-bio at the bottom of the page boasting of Schimmel’s Yale-based education only serves to add gravitas to any wild statements he made previously. The tell, for those reading the article is one dime of a sentence, which I’ll quote:

“Authorities have discovered that some users have been unwittingly buying nunu that has been cut with dangerous fillers such as powdered bleach, rat poison, and French postmodernism.”

In a long article, this comes as a schism in the unique process of reading a piece of genuinely brilliant journalism. That nunu may be being cut with both rat poison and Derrida’s Writing and Difference, is both, (1) a dear worry to any frontal lobe’s health, and (2) effectively a train in wall scenario for the perception of the article as a great bit of journalism. Now it’s left in tatters as either eloquent satire or shoddy fiction at best.

But the experience of reading it was real. I had a great time finding out that Cage was an ÜBERnunu fiend and that this was the secret to his success. Cage wrote great music regardless of his drug habits. John Lennon created stunning art in the midst of a decade-long acid binge. Many great names produced brilliant work on drugs including Huxley, Bowie, Lou Reed and so on.

We value many artists for their ability to share an intimate part of their humanity with us. Yet much of the time they’re in an affected mental state.

Artists have always had their achievements credited to them regardless of their conscious cognizance, why not extend the same courtesy to those expressing themselves with their bodies and physical prowess?

This leads me to a few conclusions, truth is old-hat, participation is 80% of success, and Lance Armstrong deserves his medals back.

He lost his balls for Christ’s sake!

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