No subject is off limits in the first ever global talk show hosted from Africa in which Redi Tlhabi talks frankly to inspiring and intriguing personalities from across the world.

The pressure today to perform on the sports field, to become the champion, to win for yourself and for your nation, impacts dramatically on sportsmen and women.

Is this pressure to succeed in today’s sporting world just too much? How do athletes under this kind of pressure not choke and not dope? And how do they stay motivated?

On this episode of South2North, Redi talks to three guests who have had different experiences in the world of sport. They discuss the difference between choking and panicking; the difference between illegal and allowed doping, and how the pressure of team sports can both motivate an individual but also push them too far.

South2North is joined by mountaineer Deshun Deysel, who has climbed some of the world’s toughest mountains, including Mount Everest. She stopped at camp two the first time she climbed Mount Everest in 1996. She says it was not an example of choking, because it would have been dangerous for her to go further.

“Your body really does need to acclimatise to lower and lower levels of oxygen, and it takes as long as it takes. So if you try to fast forward that process you’re obviously asking for a massive disaster.”

During her 14 expeditions, Deshun has seen and dealt with incredible group pressure while climbing. Redi asks her about doping in the climbing world, and whether or not Diamox, which helps climbers absorb oxygen, is a form of doping. However, there are other drugs like Dex, a steroid which can save climbers lives.

“Dex, the steroid that you can take, really it shouldn’t ever be taken unless you’re at the verge of dying and you still have the presence of mind to inject it into you because it gives you a quick rush of adrenaline that allows you to just quickly think about the next move and get to the nearest camp safely,” explains Deshun.

The second guest, Amadou Fall is a former basketball player and international NBA scout. He explains that the infrastructure in Africa means that African players come to the game late, disadvantaging them in a sport where many opportunities are available.

Amadou explains the different pressures that face young players, who suddenly find themselves under massive pressure combined with new-found fame and wealth. Asked if performance-enhancing drugs are inevitable in such high-pressure situations, he says:

“These guys [LeBron, Jordan] have done it in broad daylight, they remain inspirations to young basketball players from across the globe.”

Also joining the discussion is Dr. Ross Tucker who focuses on human performance and physiology and elite sports management. He talks about the interaction between body and mind in extreme physical stress.

“Choking is thinking too much, as opposed to panic, which is not thinking,” Ross says.

He explains how the Lance Armstrong scandal had highlighted the levels of pressure in competitive cycling.

“A lot of young guys went into the sport with good intentions, and found themselves in a position where they felt, rightly or wrongly, that they had no alternative but to dope. There’s a disillusionment that came across from many of them saying, ‘I came here to be a great cyclist and to test myself, and suddenly now I’m using drugs, and that’s the last thing I wanted’. That’s not an excuse though, because for every guy who doped, there was one who said ‘No I’m not doing this.' Unfortunately it’s more like ten who doped and one who didn’t.”


South2North can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Friday: 1930; Saturday: 1430; Sunday: 0430; Monday: 0830.

Source: Al Jazeera