San Diego, California -
The legitimacy of competitive steampunk has taken another major blow as accusations against all-star Robert Barlow have started gaining traction. Barlow is accused of using performance-enhancing leeches prior to and during the 2010-11 season. According to leaders in the field, the leeches would remove the bad humors from the blood, giving the user “better health in general and a light spring in his step to boot!” In a public statement, Barlow denied these claims saying, “I am not, have never, nor shall I ever partake in that most reprehensible divertissement.” Besides anecdotal evidence of “red welts” and various hear-say, there is no proof that Barlow is, in fact, deserving of the claims leveled against him.
However, this is not the first time Barlow has been implicated in this type of scandal. In March 2008, Barlow was one of thirty-eight professional steampunk figures named by an anonymous insider as users of tobacco enemas to “sedate the nerves and cleanse the spirit.” Of the thirty-eight, only five were proven to have to have used the enemas, including Chester Reese, inventor of the pneumatic pogo stick.
Steampunk has always been plagued with improper use of performance enhancing substances, leading many to question the steampunk’s validity as a lifestyle/hobby. On the other hand, many are arguing that any suitably anachronistic treatment should be acceptable within the steampunk society. Mary Norfolk, steampunk fan and techno-haberdasher, said, “People want to see the most creative people. I think that anything that can improve that is good for steampunk.”
At the time of publication, Barlow is maintaining his innocence.
Photo Courtesy of Vladeb on the Flickr.com creative commons