In the wake of recent revelations indicating, at least here in the United States, that cheating is fast becoming an integral part of professional sports – not that it is in the least acceptable – a brief news report was posted on the unofficial but putatively recognized global Ghanaian website, Ghanaweb.com, regarding the worry of some Ghanaian sporting officials that they and some of their players might well get caught with their pants down, literally speaking. In this particular instance, the news item, titled “Starlets 'Worried' Over FIFA Age-Tests” (8/2/05), had officials fretting over the purported introduction of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) in the determination of the actual, biological, ages of players during the FIFA-sponsored Under-17 World-Soccer Cup Finals in the South-American nation of Peru.
Here in the United States, cheating in sporting activities has come mainly in the form of the illegal use of such performance-enhancing drugs as steroids. But then, the culture of “performance-enhancement” is as American as apple-pie, to borrow a mainstream-American cliché. For instance, never an hour passes by without television viewers being bombarded with advertisements fervidly encouraging married couples, and other consenting adults, to use Viagra, the coition-, or sex-, enhancing drug of choice in order to boost the quality of male sexual performance and thus, implicitly, guarantee conjugal fealty on the part of women. And, in fact, watching these commercials, a new-comer to America would think that any couple not hooked on Viagra was deeply involved in innumerable bouts of adultery. But what is even more intriguing when it comes to the field of sports, both amateur and professional, to be certain, is the fact that almost no country in the world is better known for having an unbeatable slew of the most hardworking athletes and sportsmen and women than good, old Uncle Sam. And yet, the bizarre subject of performance-enhancing drug usage is virtually a commonplace. Which is why this writer has long since divested any confidence that he might have had for both amateur and professional sports.
Likewise, I routinely tune out during such momentous, international sporting occasions and events as the World Cup and the Olympic Games. And where in the past I used to feel disappointed with the generally dismal performance of the African countries, these days, I actually crave it as a mark of honorable honesty; for how else could these woefully underfunded African sportsmen and women fare in competing against their drug-chomping, well-heeled and well-funded and highly disciplined counterparts from the so-called First-World countries?
Recently, for instance, it was revealed that the world's officially fastest woman sprinter had actually achieved her enviable feat through the systematic and prolonged use of steroids. And even though the athlete in question – who shall remain anonymous – vehemently denied the accusation, her former husband insisted to the contrary. And one could not take the concerned athlete's husband's accusation lightly, by glibly or dismissively attributing it to the proverbial sour grapes, in view of the fact that our subject's own coach has officially admitted to the appropriate sporting authorities that he had, indeed, put his athlete, or client, on a steady dietary regimen of steroids. And so, how come that Ghana's National Under-17 coach, David Duncan, appears to be deathly perturbed about FIFA's intention to introduce Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to help detect and promptly weed out the use of over-age players during the upcoming Under-17 World-Cup tourney? The good news, after all, is that like much of Western Science dealing with the human personality and biology, MRI is an imperfect chronometer or age-measuring instrument. In fact, we are even given to understand that MRI, billed as an advanced form of x-ray technology, has the considerable margin of error of plus or minus one year (Ghanaweb.com 8/2/05). What, indeed, the preceding simply means is that FIFA may be apt to flaring up a lot of legal controversy, or litigation, since, for instance, the biological age of a 16-year-old Ghanaian soccer player might well be erroneously read as either 15 or 17 years old. And when any of the foregoing happens, you bet, the most effective and accurate instrument apt to resolving such “scientific” faux-pas would, almost definitely, be a player's birth or baptismal certificate.
And to be certain, it is quite heartening to learn that MRI technology is far from being foolproof. Nonetheless, the intention of FIFA to using such imperfect technology points to the fact that nineteenth-century, Western scientific-thinking may still be right here with the rest of us in the twenty-first century. And this pretty much, unfortunately, reminds those of us avid students of Western scientific history of the racist science of Craniometry, or Craniology, which invidiously sought to “objectively” establish the relative intellectual inferiority of the non-white or non-European species of humanity – particularly continental Africans and their direct descendants around the globe – vis-à-vis the purported super-intellectual Aryan species of Western Europe and the European diaspora. It is also quite striking to observe that the threatened use of MRI technology comes at a time that non-European nations appear to dominate the championship echelons of the Under-17 World Cup soccer tournaments. And so it may not be entirely gratuitous to factor in the question of race as a significant motivating element in FIFA's intention of using MRIs to ascertaining the exact biological ages of players.
The preceding notwithstanding, it is quite amusing for the reader to hear Ghana's Under-17 coach, David Duncan, thrash desperately about thus: “We don't know what the gadget [i.e. MRI equipment] looks like and can't be sure [of] the result[s] it [would] turn up, because we don't have the gadget here to take our boys through to ascertain what [their] real ages are.” Perhaps somebody ought to advise Coach Duncan to rush his boys to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital, where they are likely to have an MRI gadget, in order to dress-rehearse his Starlets for the proverbial kill. For, needless to say, those of us avid fans and supplicants of World-Cup Soccer would hate to have our winsome team disqualified from the only soccer sub-genre, or sub-discipline, in which Ghana is almost without compeers.
And if Korle-Bu happens not to have an MRI “gadget,” then, by all means, Coach Duncan should quickly check his Starlets into one of the many ultra-modern private clinics, littered all over Accra and the country at large, for such critical dress-rehearsal facility. Better yet, such national soccer monuments as Mr. Abedi “Pele” Ayew could be appealed to for the highly patriotic and giftable provision of an MRI “gadget” to the Starlets. Of course, it would not be totally out of order for the Ghanaian National Sports Council to pitch it. *Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D., teaches English and Journalism at Nassau Community College of the State University of New York, Garden City. He is the author of eleven volumes of poetry and prose, including his forthcoming volume of poetry titled Nananom: Foremothers, all of which are available from iUniverse.com, Amazon.com, Powells.com, Borders.com and Barnes & Noble.com. Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.