A plea to FreeJuicers
For those looking for gossip or scandal I’m sorry to disappoint: this post won’t out any athletes, or point a finger. I spend most of my time on small islands, and I’m the last one to know about anything!
Suffice to say that doping (using performance-enhancing drugs) is a disease that may now be creeping into our sport, and probably for the usual reasons (thinking that others are doing it, so why shouldn’t they).
What I would like to communicate here is a message to whoever may be considering some form of doping, or engaging in it already, and the message is this: even if you’re ultimately successful –even if you break a world record or win a gold medal– it’s not going to change a thing.
I’ve experienced some success in this sport, without having any skeletons or needles in my closet, but the sporting success itself didn’t change my life in the way that I might have hoped in my beginnings as an athlete. Problems or insecurities aren’t dissolved by a world title. Getting asked for autographs or selfies is a true honour, but feeling honoured is transient and superficial.
It’s clear that freediving has shaped my life, helping me to grow as a person and teaching me so many lessons. But the part of freediving that did that didn’t involve a podium or a title. It was a dive to 20 meters to rest on a sandy patch amidst the coral and colourful wrasse, an evening breathing session on a granite slab overlooking the Mediterranean; it was a gruelling training table in a stuffy pool, or the search for a deeper state of letting go as I freefalled into the blue hole; it was sharing a new personal best with friends, and teaching a newbie to dive for the first time.
photo by Sachiko Fukumoto @OkinawaJudy
That, and so much more, is what the sport and the ocean have given me, and next to the medals on my shelf there is no comparison.
Anyone who looks for quick shortcuts towards some fancied grail may gain short term acclaim, perhaps an additional sponsor or two. But the subterfuge and pretence would likely haunt their days, and they would miss out on the greatest prize that freediving, and sport in general, has to offer: immense fulfilment that comes from genuine accomplishment.
I apologise if this post comes across as a bit of a preach. Since it’s a topic that has an element of taboo to it, it’s not easy to bring up or discuss, but I wanted to start a dialogue as a kind of prophylaxis. Doping is a cancer, that once it takes hold in any sport is very difficult to displace. Let’s not let that happen to our beautiful practice of freediving.
photo by Daan Verhoeven @Daanverhoevenfreediver