The 1992 Summer Olympics and Paralympics to be held in Barcelona were anticipated by the media to be the best ever. They certainly were for the wheelchair basketball team. Once again we were presented gold medals while the national anthem played and our flag was raised to the center position. Once again we had gone the distance, beating the Netherlands by three points. Once again we were the best in the world. Once again my mom wanted to bronze my gold medal But she didn’t have the chance, because I lost it.
The Paralympic officials had randomly selected one of our star players for a drug test – and he tested positive.
The night before the gold medal game, he had awakened with severe phantom pain, common to paralytics. Without thinking, he took a prescription painkiller. Perhaps because it was three o’clock in the morning, he failed to follow protocol. Perhaps he didn’t think about the fact he was in violation of the rules intended to prevent the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Sending our medals back, after having worked our hearts out to win them, was one of the most difficult things any of us ever had to do.
I didn’t harbor ill feelings toward my teammate whose actions caused us to lose our gold medals; still it is important to remember that one errant action by one member of the team cancelled several thousand hours of work and sacrifice by the entire team to achieve a team goal. The error of one hurt us all.
Though this was frustrating and discouraging, I have since used it to remind myself, my clients and audiences that everything you do affects everyone on your team.