Good coaching, good drugs, and a good reward system for elite athletes and you have a weightlifting team that will compete internationally. Remove one of those variables and it is impossible. Recruiting is important, but if you don't have those other three variables in place the athletes won't make it no matter how many you bring into the sport.
Even if one thousand new great athletes were to come to weightlifting in the USA, there is very little means for them to win an Olympic gold medal. It is impossible with the current drug testing, coaching and reward system. You would be recruiting great athletes into weightlifting in a country that cannot develop them to compete with international level competition and would therefore be wasting their athletic ability that could have made them money in another sport if they truly are that gifted physically. So my argument is until those three variables get taken care of, recruiting potential elite athletes into this sport is just letting them waste away unless this sport is the one they really love and get the most joy out of compared to the rest. We have some damn good athletes in weightlifting yet they can't even compete in the same sessions as the best lifters from other countries. Why is that? Until that is solved recruiting is irrelevant in my opinion.
But, even if we had all that, there are not enough guys for the great coaches to coach.
Let me say first regarding the postings of the last few days in response to my original posting , “Doping and the IWF,” that I totally appreciate the feedback. All of it -- pro, con, and in-the-middle. It helps me get a better appreciation of the opinions and attitudes of US lifters and participants. And I think the discussion is good for the sport. I hope we get a lot more. Regarding the effects of doping, before I came to Bulgaria I had no particular views about it except what I had come across from time to time in newspapers and magazines. But here I have talked extensively with people who have first-hand experience -- former Olympic and world champions from the glory days of Bulgarian lifting. You might think they would want to downplay the importance of ‘medicaments,’ just to keep their own reputations more solid. But no, in my discussions I have never run across the Pete George opinion, namely that the performance-enhancement from doping is largely a placebo effect (I think Pete used to claim that ALL the benefits were a placebo effect). I would say that the predominant idea here is more like: the physical effect of doping is so important that you have to be a doper to have a serious shot at winning medals in world and Olympic championships. Very probably there IS some placebo effect, one which varies from person to person. But let’s not forget that the E. Germans made huge successes with their doping programs in swimming when the swimmers did NOT EVEN KNOW what they were taking. And I guarantee you also that the IOC and others would by no means have finally embarked on an expensive and difficult anti-doping campaign unless they had been totally convinced that doping had become a MAJOR factor in sports performance. And even if the placebo effect is strong in many cases, that STILL means that the dopers have a big advantage -- they get not only the physical performance benefits from the ‘medicaments,’ but also the placebo effect, that is, the additional confidence that comes from the knowledge of those benefits. Anyway, to summarize, I have come around to the following viewpoint. Steroids, and probably other drugs, enable athletes’ bodies to recover and to build muscle way faster and therefore enable athletes to train much harder than otherwise would be possible. So drugs helped make it possible for athletes not only to withstand but to continue to make big gains in the very high-pressure, intense, and frequent workouts that were the hallmark of big-time Bulgarian weightlifting, especially under Abadjiev. Even with drugs, the achievements almost certainly would not have come without the great intensity of those workouts. But without the drugs, the intensity probably would not have been physically possible. It is the combination that was effective. So my opinion is that a more drug-free environment world-wide would help US lifters in at least 3 respects: 1) the obvious point is that there would be fewer lifters overall who would be getting physical AND mental (placebo) advantages from performance-enhancing drugs, which will obviously help currently clean lifters in all countries; 2) the Abadjiev kind of super-intensive training, which I think in any case may not good for the long-term health of athletes, might simply not be sustainable, so even champions might come to have something like a more normal lifestyle; 3) maybe the most important point is exactly what Chris and others have pointed out, namely that it would remove the heavy ‘Discouragement Factor’ which cannot help but affect current and PROSPECTIVE US lifters who are staying clean: how hard are you going to train if you feel like you don’t have a real shot at medals? To me it is really depressing to think that we simply do not have any idea as to what the distribution of lifting medals might have been over the last 40 years if there had been no doping. There might well have been champions that we have never heard of, lifters who simply decided not to give it a serious shot because of the Discouragement Factor. And, of course, in a clean lifting world some of our current US lifters might well already have racked up international medals. Btw, you shouldn’t think that all Bulgarians are, or were, big doping supporters. A good friend of mine here is a masters lifter who has competed since 1951(!), which is maybe a world record in itself. Years ago he served as a dentist for the national lifting team. But he was dropped from that post and banned from the training hall -- because he was heard to criticize the doping practices. He is very bitter about what he thinks doping has done to the sport.
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