Sport against drugs

Da: Italian Committee Sport Against Drugs Rome, July 5/6 2000
Proceedings of the European Conference

Dr. Massimo BARRA Director of Villa Maraini
I am a physician, who had been dealing with drug addicts in Villa Maraini for 25 years, but for a weird chance, before being struck by a lightning along the Damascus road, like St. Paul, by the drugs milieu which I ignored, I was a sport fanatic. Indeed, my degree thesis was on sport medicine and then I took my specialization with late professor Venerando. Therefore, in my life I went through two phases: a “fanatic” phase for sport: when I was 13 years old, I founded a newspaper called “the echo of the stadium” which bore in its cover a sentence of Dante, as a slogan: “Do not doubt it, because I will win the test”; Sergio De Gregorio, late Italian champion of 400 free style, who died in Brema, wrote as well in this newspaper.

And every time there was a competition broadcasted in television, I watched it because I was a sport fan. I remember that in the ’60s, during the Olympic Games, in the last two days, my parents took me away from Rome because I watched too much television. For a weird circumstance, I spent all my life with bad people, rather than with good people, and we, as repre-sentatives of the bad people, would like to give witness; I would like that one of them, a former bad guy, could spend two words to enable the good people, represented by Masala, and the bad people, which I represent, finding an agreement, a sinergy.

As the slogan of the world conference on AIDS read: to overcome the ditch. Indeed, I believe that sport might be able to overcome the ditch between the good and the bad people because, to be honest, there is a little difference between the two. Freud said: “There is no crime, although cruel, that lam not potentially able to commit”. And when you watch television and you listen of someone who killed his wife, his son, his neighbours say: “But how come? He was such a nice person, like me, I talked to him, looked like a normal person “.

And so life can bring us, despite our will, from one side or the other. But life brings about some sinergies as well: this is the issue I want to demonstrate: sport as prevention, sport as rehabilitation. Sport as prevention: there is nothing else to add to what Daniele Masala said before, and to what Ing. Checcoli said yesterday. Which are the reasons why sport should be a prevention tool? Of course, sport can be pathological too, because it is made up of men and any human activity might be pathological; but sport, in general, is crucial to build an individual per-sonality, to be able to distinguish between good and evil.

Let’s pass to the other problem: can sport be a form of treatment? We believe so. Because sport sets endorphins free, sets organic endogenous mediators free: after a fine match you feel good, not only because of dynamic, biochemical reasons; I agree with what has been said in the last two presentations, in par-ticular by professor Ossicini and Masala: the difference between doping and drug addiction. We cannot say drugs equals to drug addict.

Because we may discuss also on the term drug. After 25 years, I still do not have an exact definition of the term drug. One may be drug abuser but not a drug addict. The drug addict is not who abuses drugs only. The drug addict is a person unable to survive without drugs, in a certain phase of his life, a shortterm phase. It is a love relationship with a substance lasting 12 years, 14 years, but then it ends up. It ends up when there other alternatives.

The alternative is everything other than drugs, is whatever can stimulate, which can grati-fy in a natural fashion. Sport can be a possible alternative. Of course, it is trivial to think that only by practising sport it is possible to overcome something, that tortured us for 20 years; but certainly, sport is one of the very few things that we might use, as an alternative, to help those who must recover from a long journey, a journey of therapy, from a tunnel, which gripped the subject for so long. Now, I would like that one of our operators (since Villa Maraini is based on the added value given by our former drug addicts, who are able to recover wasted time, and who are able to do things, which no social worker can do, with love, passion, almost wrath), says something, because if we have to fill up the ditch, it is better for all of us, to have a right for citi-zenship and expression.
I would like to beg our friend here to spend two words on behalf of the team.