Working Class Hero

Apr 01 2013, 22:43 IST
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SummaryWill drugs and controversy nail Vijender Singh?

Will drugs and controversy nail Vijender Singh?

The shocking story of Olympic boxer Vijender Singh’s alleged heroin use reminds me of an American TV show I finished watching recently. Breaking Bad follows a high-school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with third-stage cancer and has two years to live. His son has cerebral palsy and his finances are a mess, but his anxiety to leave his family provided for drives this mild-mannered teacher into drug-trafficking business. The show is so absorbing because it portrays how everything we stand for — morals, values and ethics — is based entirely on circumstance. In this case, an impending death knell releases a man from the constraints of normal society and this regular family guy rises to become a millionaire kingpin of the drug trade. 

Singh had no death knell, instead he had endorsements, money, fame and a star status that comes from being one of a tiny handful of Olympic medalists in India. He should have enough perspective, being the son of a bus driver who worked double shifts to pay for Singh and his brother’s boxing training. Even if his career had seen better days, it’s been pretty fantastic and so it’s difficult to understand what may have led him to experiment with something as lethal as heroin.

Singh has enough will power, as competing at a top international level requires endurance and tremendous focus. While a scary number of professional athletes succumb to performance-enhancing drugs, people whose careers depend on their fitness tend to embrace healthy habits. And you would imagine, stay far away from drugs. That’s why you almost believe Singh when he’s quoted as saying that he thought it was a food supplement. 

Drugs have been around in popular culture forever. Jim Morrison sang an ode to heroin in the ’60s while the ’90s fashion was all about decadence — looking used up, worn out and wasted. Trainspotting, the uncomfortable and compelling film on drug use in Scotland, has long enjoyed cult status as a classic. It was a straightforward account of a choice, like it or not, know it or not, it exists. Anyone who has seen it cannot possibly forget the vivid and fascinating details of the ecstacy of a high and the agony of withdrawal. Pulp Fiction is regarded as director Quentin Tarantino’s best work yet.

Many conservatives criticise films like these, insisting that they glamorise addiction and they do have a

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