Monday, November 25, 2013

Spiritual Doping

Apparently religion is on the decline in Australia and many other Western countries. But there are still plenty of people out there keeping the faith. And plenty of them are athletes, cyclists and mountain bikers. There’s even an existentialist bicycle courier company in Canada called Fixed Cog Hero Deliveries who lists themselves as a religious organisation on Facebook – although the motives for this are unclear.

They claim to be…
“…a bicycle courier company seeking enlightenment through the meditative practice of performing artful heroic deeds and happenings.” 
Does that really constitute a higher purpose?

Unlike Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity, their services are not provided free of charge to those in need.
“Because each individual case is a separate performance as well as a practical service a fee is charged . This is a way for an artist/bicycle monk to be able to perform his art without going through the usual means of attaining recognition.” 
I guess if you consider delivering packages a “performance” and bike messengers to be  “artists/bicycle monks” then it’s not too much of a stretch to label a courier company a religious organisation.
They have no breaks? Just wait until the bike messenger union hears about this!

The point is that although religion is on the decline in many countries, there is still plenty of it out there – even in cycling.

It’s not uncommon for religious athletes to attribute part or all of their success to God.
If it's true that God really is working behind the scenes to assist those athletes with strong faith to achieve success, then it does not seem fair that they should be competing alongside atheists and agnostics who are doing it all on their own – pan y agua, as it is known in the professional cycling peloton. 
Both atheist sportspeople (athieletes?) and Christians have some fetching t-shirt options.

Obviously this issue is quite contentious and often shied away from, but in the end what it comes down to is a type of special performance enhancement – Spiritual Doping.

This is not to say that religious athletes should be banned from competing, it’s just that the arena in which they compete needs to fair for all. In bodybuilding there is a clear division between natural and enhanced athletes which, it could be argued, should also apply to religion.
Religious sporting organisations and events already exist. The Jews have the Maccabiah Games, there’s also an Islamic Solidarity Games and countless other associations, tournaments and events for sportspeople of every different religious denomination.

Throughout history there have been countless high-profile athletes who have been outspoken about their religious faith.

Bill Goldberg was one of the most successful pro-wrestlers of all time and also a proud Jew – although obviously not as proud as Barry Horowitz who used to rock the Star of David shorts.
Muhammad Ali was one of a number of famous converts to Islam and often preached the virtues of following Allah…and the challenges in finding humility.

As it turns out, in the world of 24-hour mountain biking, both of the current World Champions, Jason English and Jessica Douglas (from Australia) happen to be Christians. But perhaps this is more than a coincidence. It could be that their faith has helped them rise to the top of their sport. In fact, English appears in this video for the Canberra Christian Convention, called Standing For Christ, where he talks about how “…there’s many attributes of being a Christian that can improve your cycling.”

Listening to sermons on his iPod while out on long training rides as well as the subtle addition of a Jesus Mountain Bike sticker have helped him keep the faith while training and racing.
“…I’ve got all these sponsors that look after me and it really got me thinking, you know, what has God done? And he obviously deserved a sticker that’s bigger than this bike.”
Make sure your sticker is endorsed by God before decorating your MTB.

This video also includes a great story about a broken collarbone and a prayer circle that makes for worthwhile viewing.

The performances of English and Douglas definitely speak for themselves – and the power of God. If you were an up and coming 24-hour mountain biker, it would seem like a bit of a no-brainer to enlist God and Jesus in your support crew. At least one thing’s for certain – you won’t catch them snoozing when you come through transition in the early morning.

If there is, indeed, an athletic benefit, to having God on your side then something needs to be done to level the playing field so that the non-believers aren’t put at a disadvantage. It might turn out that a base level of spirituality is considered acceptable but once that threshold is reached, the assistance from higher powers is deemed to be artificially performance enhancing – and should therefore be banned.

However, combating Spiritual Doping is something that will prove difficult for sport’s governing bodies. Firstly, there’s the issue of testing – is it even possible to develop a test for spirituality? Perhaps the Scientologists could help – they have some nifty ways of quantifying religious enlightenment.
The E-meter, when used by a trained Scientologist, is claimed to reflect or indicate whether or not a person has been relieved from spiritual impediment of past experiences.

In time, it might also prove necessary to more closely monitor athletes even while out of competition using some sort of Spiritual Passport that would expose unnatural spikes in athletes’ spirituality and faith in God.

My advice would be to buck the trend of declining religion and start including faith in your training program. You can find some handy tips on balancing your faith with mountain biking in this informative article.

It’s probably best to get in quick before the authorities make it illegal.


  1. How did your arch nemesis, Jebus, not get a mention in this article? Seems he does more spiritual doping than anyone else.

  2. Jebus sacrificed his gears for your sins. Don't question Jebus.