It should be obvious I have nothing personal to gain from questioning Torres’ achievements. It’s only my aggrieved sense of justice and empathy for what today’s elite female sprinters must be thinking when they line up beside her that led me to write my article. If our best aren’t to be forced into doping to remain competitive they’ll have to be protected. Still many readers took it personally. It also became manifestly clear many had no desire to seek the truth but rather only sought to have their own beliefs dominate, right or wrong - often aggressively attacking opposing viewpoints with false statements or employing ad hominem comments. This led to some head shaking posts. One individual thought he could counter my observation Torres had added nearly twenty pounds of muscle in just one year’s time (actually now known to have been seventeen pounds) by saying it wasn’t unusual to see this in kids headed for the NBA. It’s difficult to anticipate these arguments - to my knowledge there hasn’t been a single woman to play in the NBA, much less one who started in her early thirties. Am I wrong that they have all been young males? The same individual, incensed by my certainty Torres is doping, then proceeded to slur Mark Spitz’s comeback attempt by stating he “just did this for attention” ignoring my very careful explanation why Spitz had every incentive to take it very seriously indeed. He actually cited the fact Spitz’s best comeback time was slower than the current Masters 100 fly world record as proof the attempt was treated as a lark (Mark Spitz would rank fifth fastest all time for males 40-44 if his best time had been achieved at a Masters sanctioned meet). This bizarre logic would label the majority of swimming's past greats, such as the likes of Don Schollander¹ and Dawn Fraser² among many, many others, as out right slackers for not being faster. It also avoids dealing with my point his time is about the best you can expect from two years training when coming back after years of retirement. More readers gave arguments which clearly showed they hadn’t read preceding responses where their issues had already been addressed. Several argued points which weren’t salient to my central hypothesis. Some even took exception to me taking exception. When I dismissed the opinions of those who voted Torres had definitely never taken drugs as clearly flawed (in that her extraordinary performance and today’s reality made it impossible not to call at least into question the possibility of her doping) a reader wrote what was the literary equivalent of spitting in my face. When I responded with a figurative punch he actually complained, going so far as to point out my comment about ad hominem attacks. Apparently he thought that while he could stoop to personal attacks my ethics would prevent a like response. He was wrong. Later another reader, evidently thinking attacking me directly wouldn’t be worth the trouble, decided to instead ridicule a blogger supporting my position. Unsurprisingly his justification rests on deliberately misrepresenting the blogger's argument “that training hasn't changed or technique hasn't changed” when Damien actually wrote “The argument that technology has improved and better training methods have caused this to happen is nonsense since it was not that long ago and technology hasn't progressed that much”. Clearly Damien is arguing the amount of improvement Torres has shown in her thirties and forties isn’t supported by an equivalent improvement in swimming technique and training practices; not there haven’t been significant improvements over the past couple decades. And he’s right. Overall world records in women’s swimming are 1.91% faster than those existing in 1988, yet during this same span Dara has seen her 50 meter free time improve by 5.30%³ and her 100 free improve by 1.97%. Improved technique and training alone cannot explain her late rise to greatness even if you ignore entirely the fact she’s fifteen years older, has put in only minimal training, and that for the most part the current records are held by new swimmers – not the same 1980’s record holders simply swimming faster.
I’ll have some more posts about Dara Torres later on. For now I’ll end with another one of my “dumb quotes” from a Lane Nine News August 1, 2007 article on Torres winning the U.S. 50 and 100 free titles at Indianapolis, setting a new American 50 free record in the process.
Evan Morgenstein, Torres' agent, was justifiably "thrilled that she did what she did - she focuses on a demographic in which there is no competition. She didn't make any money today - she didn't make a dime. She came because she wanted to win a national championship."Wow, what a woman. Imagine swimming at the National Championships for nothing. Perhaps when the Church finishes canonizing Mother Teresa they’ll take a look at Dara Torres.
¹Schollander’s 1968 200 free world record and PB was 1:53.3; in Masters men’s 35-39 age group the world record is 1:52.84 held by Vlad Pyshnenko
² Dawn Fraser’s 1964 100 free world record and PB was 58.9 and remained a world record until Jan/72; in Masters women’s 35-39 age group the world record is 58.87 held by S. Neilson-Bell
³Measured from her 1988 Olympic Trials 25.83. Her personal best in 1988 (as can be determined at the time of writing) was 25.61 achieved four years earlier on July 21, 1984.
P.S. The last line is I believe my very first triple entendre – a rather rare word play I’ve only encountered twice outside of Shakespeare. I’ll give a bottle of scotch to the first person who can tell me the three ‘meanings’ contained therein and so prove I’m right.