I don’t want to brag or boast, but I’m something of an athlete. Yeah. I know. You look at me and you see it, the sleek lines of my calf, the powerful muscle of my quads, the pert curve of my ass that jeans cup and form against a perfect half-circle. Then there’s my abs. That rigid six, no eight pack, of muscle that ascends from my v—you know what I’m talking about—to my ribcage. And my pecs. Lets just say Arnold is jealous, and I’m talking Conan Arnold, not weak, shredded, Predator Schwarzenegger. I can’t roll up my sleeves because my bulging biceps have torn too many shirts; a tear of poplin fabric running along my arm and up to my shoulder like a fault line in California. My back, well lets just say my spine is a smooth highway in a valley of mountains, until it reaches my traps and shoulders, which have definition that can only be found on a topographical map of New Mexico.
You get the idea, I’m ripped. Thats right. I’m not humble about it. I know what I am. I’m a professional athlete, and without a little narcissism, I would never be able to achieve the levels I have. But, truth be told, I’ve come up against one of my toughest opponents ever, forcing me to up my game.
I’m a member of an elite group of athletes who pride themselves on knowing we belong to an exclusive class in the sports world. Our sport is one of strength, which requires perfection of athletic prowess and the skill and determination of an Olympic god. But, our sport, like others, can be marred by controversy and cheating.
Recently, we’ve all undergone drug testing for blood transfusions and doping. No one in the league is safe from the prying eyes and prickish needles of the doctors hired by the bosses of the association. I know, it’s appalling. To think athletes could be doing this, it’s unconscionable.
I take my training serious, and it disgusts me when I hear of such abuses and shortcuts other athletes have taken, bringing a cloud over our time honored and respected sport. “Take my blood,” I tell them every time they come at me, “I have nothing to hide.” I look around the locker room and I can see the leering gazes from all the others, thinking that a physique such as mine could not be natural. But, I’m not the one who is never at the gym, yet somehow placing in the top, over and over again.
Many attribute their spectacular qualifying times as luck, a natural genetic ability, or the streamlining of their equipment. Like any sport that requires a vehicle to race in, whether it being Nascar, cycling, or bobsled, the make, material, and aerodynamics matter. So many attribute their success to their equipment, but, that only goes so far.
The league officials decided to conduct inspections, and their findings were not surprising. Everything was above board, on par with regulations and size requirements. In other words, these excuses are falling short now. It has become so bad athletes are beginning to form cliques of those who suspect one athlete or the other. But, it all came to a head the other night, and the obvious revealed the culprit.
The race began tense as we all stood at the line, awaiting the shot of the gun. The bang came, and we bounded forward like the champs we are, but one pulled ahead instantly.
As we rounded the first curve in the track, Brianne’s speed was uncanny. She cleared the hurdles like they were mere anthills on the ground. She pulled ahead of all of us with lightning speed, but her movements were jerky and her head twitched side to side. Spectators noted they could see the veins in her forehead bulging out, pulsating and throbbing. And then, she collapsed, the strain of drugs too much for her heart to take.
Her hobby horse skidded to the ground and dropped, causing a crash on the course. It was mayhem. So many injured, so much fire and destruction. Horse after wooden horse, their felt manes flapping in the winds caused by the chaos of explosive force, skittered to the ground as a chain reaction caused all of us, even myself, to fall victim to the maelstrom that developed.
Brianne, recovering from her stupor, blood dripping down her 12 year old bony knee, grabbed her the wooden shaft of her Hobby Horse and in a ‘roid rage snapped its neck over her knee, and with reddened face, screamed and flailed, throwing the shards into the audience. One end, broken and sharp, flew into a spectator’s stomach like a spear thrown by a gladiator. The victim slumped forward, propped up the by cherry handle, as it slid through their body, impaling them in front of all to see. It was a sad day for the illustrious sport of Hobby Horse racing, and I don’t think it will ever recover from such a blow.
The aftermath was a whirlwind. We were all implicated in some form or another, and all were called to testify in front of Congress. Many pleaded the fifth. But some spoke truth.
Unbeknownst, but suspected by all of us, over the years Brianne injected anabolic steroids in the veins between her toes prior to her workouts, enhancing her gains. During multiple interviews on ESPN Ocho after the tragedy, Ashley Kapinski recalled what really gave Brianne her race day boost. She witnessed on multiple occasions, Brianne snorting a mixture of Fun Dip and Lik-a-Stix crushed up into a fine white powder, cut with pixie sticks, mere minutes before each race, off the smooth skin of a Ken Doll’s back. She noted that blue raspberry was a favorite of Brianne’s, and on occasion she would settle for lime, which would cause her nose to bleed profusely from the combination. Brianne was sent to rehab and will be there until 21 years of age.
The spectator lived, and actually kept the handle, selling it on eBay for a fortune. And I–well, I wasn’t disgraced in all of this. I came out clean, but the sport was never the same, so I retired. It’s been a few years now, and I am reaching my fourteenth birthday. I feel like my golden years are past, my halcyon days behind me, and now I sit in retirement of ninth grade, wondering when death will just wave its icy hand over me and end this misery.
I began to focus my energies elsewhere after the tragic events which unfurled on that track. I thought, why not try another sport involving horses? I began to train for the United States Buzkashi team. But alas, I didn’t have the grip strength to grapple a dead sheep carcass from a grown Afghani man while riding on horseback across the steppe. I tried. I really did. I went back into the gym and my forearms got so big from the lifting, but in the end, I think the sport lacked the spark and vigor that Hobby Horse racing held for me. There is something so thrilling about the danger that previous sport of mine produced. Buzkashi, please. Just a bunch of men riding around on horses throwing a sheep at each other. Where’s the danger in that? Sure, you get trampled and die on the verdant plains of Afghanistan, but it’s nothing compared to the tragic events of that night, when blood ran on the track.
I guess, danger calls me. Speaks to me. Whispers in my ear and goads me. Like a siren, it beckons me. And that is why I find myself at a crossroads.
Recently I began to feel the itch again. I can hear my horse neighing from inside my closet. At night I wake in cold sweats, my feet kicking in the air as I leap over hurdles in my dreams.
Maybe I’ll go back. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll take up the horse again. Maybe I’ll have a comeback.