An Unanswered Question from The Phantom Menace

Anakin in the pod cockpit
Strap in, kid. The nerds are about to become unhinged. Good thing you’ve got that helmet on.

Well, here there be an invitation to pain. I’ll be stunned—yes, stunned—if anyone/everyone who comments stays on topic. Let the games begin!

At the outset I have to give credit to The Clone for this question, as he ponders some interesting angles having to do with everyone’s favorite Space Saga. I was fairly dismissive of the question, citing numerous factors—all of which I’m remaining silent about due to the fact that I don’t want to bias potential comments/answers to this question.

Does Anakin’s High Midichlorian Count Constitute a Performance–Enhancing Drug?

The Clone maintains that it does, in fact, constitute a PED on the basis that it enhances his natural abilities above those of a normal being (regardless of race/species). To quote Qui–Gon:

He can see things before they happen. That’s why he appears to have such quick reflexes. It’s a Jedi trait.

Now, this is undeniably an advantage to a being regardless of age. While Anakin may not knowingly manipulate the Force at this tender, untrained stage in his life, he nevertheless has an innate ability to react to events quicker since he can see things coming before they actually happen. He may consider it instinct, but it’s really a Force–based ability.

So Is It An Unfair Advantage?

The main counterpoint to which I doggedly return in conversations with The Clone is that it’s not so much an unfair advantage as something by which the playing field is leveled. As Anakin notes, he’s the only human that can do it. Is that true or just vain braggadocio? I suppose that’s left up to interpretation; Qui–Gon may be gently trying to play a hunch about Anakin at that point as he plies him with the follow–up line that he “must have Jedi reflexes.”

However, isn’t that really what a PED is? Something by which you ‘close the distance’ between yourself and your opponents, and possibly overtake their own natural abilities, in an effort to win. Most importantly, you’re supplementing your own innate abilities as a human being.

To wit, on a level playing field of age and fitness, I might be unable to outrun Usain Bolt naturally due to my own physical limitations. However, if I supplement my training to ‘close the distance’ in our abilities with a PED, I can. Or I can recoup from injuries quicker, build more muscle mass to help the Steelers win Super Bowls in the 1970s or whatever.

Still…

I can’t escape the fact that the kid wasn’t injecting himself with midichlorians. And, midichlorians are a part of all life; they just manifest in greater numbers and with deeper Force connections within other beings. And besides, who’s to say another racer didn’t have a latent Force ability? They just may not have had a connection as strong as Anakin’s.

In other words, Anakin did nothing to change his midichlorian count, nor to knowingly enhance it. Therefore, he’s not “enhancing” himself, therefore it’s not a PED but rather a natural characteristic.

I say that I’ve got a logical counter–argument, of a rather iron quality.

What say you?

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11 thoughts on “An Unanswered Question from The Phantom Menace

  1. In Star Trek (2009), the reason that “Bones” told Kirk . . .

    [SLAP!]

    It’s not a PED, literally, legally, or morally. I’ve dealt with this issue quite a bit on Fight Fans Radio and on my MMA blog (mmadork.wordpress.com), so I actually have an informed and confident stance on this issue. PED stands for “performance enhancing drug.” No one denies that midichlorians enhance performance, so that’s not at issue. The literal issue is whether it’s a drug, and the legal or moral issue is whether it’s a “cheat.” The former is easily addressed, where the latter arguably doesn’t even matter because we’re not talking about a sport, but rather saving the galaxy.

    LITERAL

    According to Dictionary.com (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/drug?s=t), a drug is a “chemical substance used in the treatment, cure, prevention, or diagnosis of disease or used to otherwise enhance physical or mental well-being.” The definition requires the introduction of some “thing” into the patient, whether the thing is an enhancing substance in its own right, or designed to cause the body to change its natural levels of something already there, thus creating an artificial *level* of that otherwise natural thing.

    Ergo, objectively speaking, it’s not a PED.

    LEGAL/MORAL

    But is it a cheat? No. If a fighter (or other athlete) can produce medical documentation of a *natural* over- or underproduction of a substance, the athlete may participate without restriction even though the athlete’s natural level gives an advantage. Why? It’s because some people are born with better metabolism, bigger frames, or any other number of differences that give the athlete a *natural* advantage over the other athletes. Having higher natural testosterone levels is absolutely no different than those other examples. It only appears similar because of all the possible ways to cheat (i.e., some aren’t even possible), artificially elevating your testosterone levels is the most efficient among them. To keep balance among pro fighters at least, fighters are often restricted to weight classes.

    The key isn’t whether you have an advantage; it’s how you got it. If it’s natural, it’s almost always permitted, though sometimes with controversy (i.e., an athlete with an XXY chromosome profile competing as a woman). If the advantage is artificially created, then you’re changing who you are, and thus cheating.

    Because Anakin’s midichlorian count is naturally occurring, it’s neither a drug nor a cheat, though if it were a cheat, I’d advise the Jedi to cheat the hell out of themselves. The more midichlorians they have, the better chance they have of saving the galaxy.

    NOTES

    1. There’s a controversial therapy called TRT (Testosterone Replacement Therapy), whereby athletes with lower-than-normal testosterone levels can take testosterone injections to get them up to normal levels. It’s currently legal in all 50 states. You may debate whether it should be legal all you want, but the point is that the regulations reflect the belief that everyone’s entitled to normal levels of testosterone. By extension, if it were possible to increase midichlorian levels (it apparently isn’t), the Jedi might consider inflating to Anakin’s levels to be cheating, thought again, who cares?

    2. Restricting the use of PEDs isn’t without controversy itself. Some argue that PEDs are no different than eating right or taking nutritional supplements, so every athlete should be free to do so. It would, after all, make sporting events even better, and if the athletes are aware of the risks, they should be permitted to take them. My reply ignores this viewpoint and thus is technically a bit too simplistic, but I felt that was okay because that’s obviously outside the scope of this article (not to mention how much longer the reply would be).

  2. I don’t have a lot I can add to gsllc’s comment. That was a pretty comprehensive view of PEDs.

    As a different tack, though, why would it matter? This is a multi-species, quasi-legal race run by gangsters on a backwater planet. I’m pretty sure that in our world, steroids aren’t banned from underground fighting rings. That would just be silly. While I’m sure that Jedi are banned from competing in the Republic Olympics, that’s not even close to what we’re seeing in the movie.

  3. See, what Kessel conveniently left out was my point that Anakin may have had the midichlorians in him but he needed a catalyst to activate them. Qui-gon was that catalyst to start the reaction. Yes, he wasn’t injecting anything, or rubbing the cream or the clear, but he activated something by bringing his mastery of the force around a being that had an absurd midichlorian count. So in comparison to the finite world you know, if someone has a naturally high testosterone level and they find a way to get more of it, it is cheating or performance enhancing. The use of the term ‘drug’ was misused, but I used it to make my point to Kessel. It is not a drug, but an unfair performance enhancer that is made better with the introduction of someone who can activate that performance enhancer.

    I am likely to lean to samldanach’s statement of “why would it matter? This is a multi-species, quasi-legal race run by gangsters on a backwater planet.” but I have been to a underground boxing match and even a cock fight (things I’m not too proud of) and the gangsters and drecks of society that were there seriously frown upon cheating. So, in some instances, especially when there is money (or any wager) on the line, cheating is severely looked down on. At best Anakin needs an asterisk next to his name for his win.

    1. Nope. Too late. I’ve already judged your argument as KesselJunkie presented it, and his word is gold.

      Seriously, taking everything I said above (assuming you were able to stay awake while reading it), how is Qui-gone-bye-bye any different than getting the best trainer in the world to train you? Does that give you an advantage? Yes. In what sense, though, is it unfair?

      1. It is not like I am saying Anakin had something like the 577R Genotype and Qui-gon trained him to make him an elite athlete. Anakin had a chemical (ok, living being) inside of him that needed a catalyst to make it work. It is like an electromagnet (YEAH, Magnets, Bitch!) if you have the actual magnet but not electricity it doesn’t fully work. You add that electricity (in this case Qui-gon) it becomes super powered. The Electricity ENHANCES the performance with only the simple addition of one component. I can also use the phenylacetone method example of cooking meth, that if you have all the chemicals but one, you don’t get the result you need. Qui-gon is the that missing chemical to Anakin’s “meth-lab.”

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