Drug Usage: a Concern for All Athletes

I wish to comment on the answer to a question in "Sports 101" (August 14). The question: Why are track and field and swimming the most susceptible to drug use? According to your answer the reason behind the drug taking is (1) because both sports are highly competitive and (2) track and field athletes and swimmers rely more than any other athletes on their physique, therefore (3) they experience more intense pressure to be "superhuman."

Although some generalities in these answers touch the basic motives of resorting to drug taking, I wish to point out that (1) track and field and swimming are not the only highly competitive and individual sports, lending themselves to the challenge of drug enhancing performances. At Olympic level, there is not one sport that is less or more competitive than another. But according to Olympic news info, the sports most watched are swimming, track and field, and gymnastics, and therefore emphasis on drug taking [in these sports] is more widely known among the general public.

(2) I disagree with the statement that track and field athletes and swimmers rely more on their physique than any other athletes. The physical readiness of, for example, an ice skater, gymnast, or rower is of the same measure as any other athlete.

(3) Any athlete performing at world level has equal pressure to achieve; the media do not need to single out a particular sport. The pressure put on the athletes to "extend" their career through drug use is a pressure equal on all athletes. [Consider] the Chinese swimmers who are "paid" according to performance, or Russian gymnasts who receive better living standards according to results.

The subject of drug taking should be taken out of the realm of specific sports as it is an entirely individual "choice." For every [athlete] caught taking drugs, there are millions of honest achievers trying to break their own limitations.

Lieve J.L. Olivera

Sarasota, Fla.

Former International Gymnastics Judge

The UK and NAFTA

In reply to "UK Ponders Hitching to US Economy, Snubbing Euro" (Aug 12), the headline and the tone of the article might mislead your readers into thinking that Conrad Black's idea of the UK joining NAFTA is being widely considered by Britain. As an idea, it is a nonstarter. The UK joined the EU (formerly the EEC) in 1973 and since then has been committed to joint policies on trade and other matters. What Mr. Black is suggesting is political and economic bigamy. The UK cannot pursue trade policies with the US independently of its 14 European partners because it would be in contravention of its treaty obligations.

Even if it were legally possible for the UK to join NAFTA, it would be foolish. Britain maintains strong bonds with the US, including language, history, and democratic outlook. However, the UK is part of Europe, both geographically and economically. Its trade with the European Union is six times greater than its trade with the US. A Britain which is an active player in Europe will better serve America's interests - political, economic, and strategic.

Patrick and Rosemary Thomson

Esher, England

Crumbling faades

Regarding columnist Jeffrey Shaffer's piece "A Horse Is a Horse of Course ... But, Um, the Color of My Wife's Eyes?" (August 14) on selective memory, I wanted to tell you what a delight it was. He has a wonderful way which made me laugh, but also empathize greatly with his fear. It's so comforting to know that I'm not the only one who worries about such things or that "my faade of intelligence will crumble away like a cheap Halloween mask."

Pam Winters

San Marcos, Calif.

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