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Taking the prize – taking a big risk

by An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To look at why we do things and right and wrong motivation.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and three or four readers, if you follow the steps below, but you could hold the assembly with fewer readers or otherwise alter it as suits. Reader 1 could play the role as if he or she were a sports commentator, sometimes saying things directly to the audience, such as when asking the question, ‘What would you do?’ It would be good to cast the school comedian as Reader 2. Have a run through ahead of the assembly so the readers all know what they have to say and do.

  • You will also need a piece of paper to give to Reader 4, who will give it to Reader 2 during the assembly, when instructed. On one side, write:

    Those who throw boomerangs should realize that they always come back to you. 

    On the other side, write:

    Medical authorities point out that the effects of performance-enhancing drugs on athletes are unknown, but there is a very strong probability that such abuse could cause severe medical problems in later life.
  • Gather some information about the Tour de France, at:, which includes a map and photographs of recent winners.

  • Have available the theme tune from the film Chariots of Fire and the means to play it at the end of the assembly (check copyright).


Reader 1 The word 'motive' has been defined as, ‘a reason for doing something’ (Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, 2011). 

Reader 1 turns to Reader 2 and poses a question.

Reader 1
Do you like to win? To be the winner? To be acknowledged as the best?

Reader 2
Of course. Doesn't everybody want to be number one?

Reader 1
What motivates you to want to be a winner? How far are you willing to go to be 'the best'? What risks are you willing to take to make sure you are number one?

Reader 2
Well  . . .  it depends on the circumstances.

Reader 1
OK. Let's look at some circumstances and get more specific.

Readers 3 and 4 move forward.

Reader 3
In recent years, the Tour de France – one of the most important events on the European sporting calendar – has been in the news because of allegations that some of the cyclists who compete in it take performance-enhancing drugs.

Reader 4
These athletes are very motivated people. Anybody who wins the Tour de France is instantly famous and totally idolized.

Reader 1
Would you take performance-enhancing drugs to make sure you were the winner? It amounts to cheating. Who wants to be famous for being a cheat?

Reader 2 Let's not be too quick to judge. Let's look at the facts first. It's a good idea to get information before you start spouting opinions all over the place.

Reader 1
OK, let's hear some facts.

Readers 3 and 4 offer some facts to Reader 1.

Reader 3
We're going to read out a few quotes from newspapers. The people quoted were involved with the Tour de France. Here is what one newspaper reporter said after the race in 1998 was over.

Reader 4

The Tour de France has ended after three weeks of scandals that threatened to halt the race. Fewer than half of the 200 starters made it to the finish following dramatic police raids in search of performance-enhancing drugs.

Reader 3

Many riders, managers and team doctors were taken in for questioning when surprise raids on their hotel rooms uncovered stashes of banned medications. After this a number of the cycling teams had no option but to withdraw from the race.

Reader 2 Sounds like a set-up to me. I mean  . . .  if you're going to take drugs you don't keep them lying around in your hotel room, do you? You keep them in somebody else's room! So  . . .  they were clearly set up if you ask me.

Reader 1
Let's check the facts.

Reader 4

Several riders admitted to using artificial stimulants and openly stated that  . . .

Reader 3

. . .  drug use is now part of the business of professional cycling. Everybody knows there's doping in cycling.

Reader 4

Jean-Pierre Soudrie – a life-long fan of the Tour de France in the crowd in Paris when asked his opinion – said:

I love cycling. I'm not saying doping is a good thing, but no one in the world is perfect.

Reader 1 So it looks like many people know drugtaking goes on and choose to ignore it. What would motivate them to do that?

(To audience.) Do you approve of drugs in sport?

Reader 2
Hang on! You've got to admit, it must be tempting to use drugs, but not everybody gives in to temptation.

Reader 1 True.

Reader 3
A former top British cyclist claimed that he had once been invited to join an inner circle of Tour de France professionals who took performance-enhancing drugs under doctors' supervision. Graeme Obree said  . . .

Reader 4
‘I was asked to contribute towards a pool of money for drugs'. Obree decided instead to quit the sport altogether. He said, 'The sport must be cleaned up.'

Reader 1
What motivated him to refuse? Do you understand his motivation for quitting altogether?

(To audience.) Would you have done that?

What motivates sportsmen and women to take performance-enhancing drugs?

Reader 2
You've already answered that yourself when you said you can become really famous, everybody idolizes you. For some people that probably makes it worth taking the risk of being caught.

Reader 1
How would you really feel about yourself, though – knowing you'd won unfairly? Isn't that the most important thing – how you feel about yourself?

What's more important – being the winner or being true to yourself?

(To audience.) You decide.

Having delivered their thought-provoking questions, the speakers leave the stage, but Reader 2 doesn't get very far before he or she rushes back  . . .

Reader 2
Hey, I've just had a great idea  . . .  Why not make performance-enhancing drugs legal. If everybody is taking them, then it's a level playing field again, so you wouldn't have to feel bad about it. Where's the problem with that?

Reader 4 rushes to Reader 2 and hands him or her a piece of paper.

Reader 2 (Reading from the piece of paper.)

Those who throw boomerangs should realize that they always come back to you.

What's that supposed to mean?

Reader 4 turns over the piece of paper and presents it once more to Reader 2, then leaves the stage.

Reader 2 (Reading from the piece of paper.)

Medical authorities point out that the effects of performance-enhancing drugs on athletes are unknown, but there is a very strong probability that such abuse could cause severe medical problems in later life.

Reader 2 is thoughtful, then makes a decision.

Reader 2 (To audience.) You want to be a winner? Maybe you should just push yourself a little bit harder.

You decide.

With a smile, he or she runs from the stage.

Time for reflection

Five-times winner of the Tour de France, Miguel Induráin, writing a column in a Spanish sports daily, said:

There is something more important than winning. Dignity must come before everything.

Is he being naïve?

In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde, the then French Sports Minister, Marie-George Buffet, said she had decided to crack down on illicit substances in sport when she took office and realized that doping was no longer just a cottage industry:

What was missing for a long time in the fight against doping was a strong political will to do it.

She said that meant having a:

determination to hide nothing, to attack the deeper causes of doping, to never give in to pressures – and, let me tell you, they exist.

Why have some influential people been willing to ignore the drugtaking in the past?

Sponsors of sports events pay vast amounts of money, but they are more likely to give that money to athletes who are going to win. It makes them look good. That's their motive for sponsoring them. This inevitably puts pressure on athletes to win at all costs. Could this lead them to take performance-enhancing drugs? Would you sponsor a team that never wins? What would be your motive for that?

Those who throw boomerangs should realize that they always come back to you.

Would you be willing to risk your future health by taking drugs? What would be your motive for that

Dear Lord,
Most people experience times when they want to win at any cost.
When we have an opportunity to do well and want to do better, may we be able to keep a sense of proportion.
When we think we may do badly and want to avoid losing, may we remember that winning by false means is not really winning.
When we feel we never win – and when we do win – may we remember that daring to be involved is, in the end, as important as winning, if our motives are right.


Theme tune from the film Chariots of Fire

Publication date: January 2015   (Vol.17 No.1)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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