One of the most disappointing moments of the Olympics for me was hearing Paul Hamm speak.
And then, when I heard Carly Patterson speak, my heart sank.
With both American gymnastics winning Olympic gold medals in their respective individual competitions, the scandal will be huge. Gymnasts use helium for a number of reasons:
- It lightens the body to allow for seemingly effortless feats of strength.
- It creates a sense of confidence and near-euphoria.
- Its inert nature makes it virtually undetectable by standard Olympic drug-screening methods.
Sadly, there are a number of side effects:
- In men and post-pubescent boys, the upper-body musculature tends to "balloon" as the tissues fill with lighter-than-air gas trapped within the body cavity that tries to rise, looking for a way out. This gives the look of broad, musculature shoulders.
- In women and post-pubescent girls, this same ballooning occurs to a lesser extent, due to the breasts acting something like a pair of holding tanks. The nature of helium creates a characteristic "perkiness."
- Shortness of stature is a side-effect of helium abuse. As the body tries to float up from the ground, the athlete reflexively creates a downward pressure with their muscles to hold themselves to the Earth. This internal pressure defeats the body's natural growth process and results in "helium height."
- The characteristic high-pitched voice is a tell-tale sign of sustained helium use. As anyone who has ever sucked in the contents of a balloon and then spouted off a string of obscenities at a party where they've just been introduced to marijunana knows, helium makes the voice "so fucking funny."
This is an ugly blemish on the American Olympic team and the sport of gymnastics in general. When will athletes, coaches, and helium pushers realize that their selfish actions hurt us all?