Steroids and Doping in Sports: A different Angle (Part 1)
The past six months have been heartbreaking for sports fans and cancer patients who have hitched their loyalty, aspirations and hopes to one of the greatest sportsmen this country has ever known - seven-time Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong. The recent whistle-blowing comments of disgraced tour champion Floyd Landis have cast a shadow on a career that has literally helped thousands, if not millions of cancer patients through funding, greater public awareness, and, most of all hope.
This blog is not an easy one for me to write. For while I will never promote the virtues of doping or steroid use in sports, I also have to ask myself and the sports world at large: Why are we so focused on disgracing individuals after their careers are over and what is the cost? Especially when the vast majority in their sport - particularly cycling, which in the late 1990s had an estimated 90% performance enhancing use rate, according to the French newspaper Sud Ouest - was using performance enhancing drugs at the same time?
We all watch sporting events hoping that every athlete is playing on even ground. We assume that the rules of sport are being followed, allowing us to enjoy the competition and cheer for our favorite athlete. The accusations that came and continue to come from Floyd Landis, if true, implicate the entire top tier of the cycling world. If true, one could say they all knew the game, they chose to compete under those conditions, they all chose the potential consequences and, most importantly from a competitive perspective, they were all racing on equal ground. (Which the Sud Ouest estimate from the late 1990s makes abundantly clear).
However, as fans, we remained in the dark. We just saw great cyclists working very hard doing what appeared to be superhuman feats of endurance and strength. Climbing Category 1 inclines in the Pyrenees Mountains after having already raced 1,500 to 1,700 miles is the height of superhuman performance, in my opinion. We marveled at their perseverance and painful push towards victory. We were all inspired or left in awe.
Now Floyd Landis is coming clean. He is letting the world know that everyone was doping, most prominently the king of the modern cycling world, Lance Armstrong. My question to Floyd: Why? Even if everyone is guilty as charged, what is the reason for Landis' continued push to implicate the entire upper echelon of the sport? Is it so that he can feel better about himself, or is it for the "greater good" of cycling? As easily as it is to argue the latter - and, from this, cycling will certainly become cleaner - one must remember that, in 2009, Landis threatened Armstrong by email with this very "outing" if Armstrong didn't pay him what Landis claimed were back wages. That, in my mind, is blackmail.
An admitted cheater wanting to clear his name by bringing down the rest of his competitors is either committing the ultimate act of selfishness or falling on the sword to do what he considers best for the fans and the sport of cycling. While Landis might feel good now about his admissions, how do the fans of cycling feel? What about the fans of Lance Armstrong, who are not only sports fans, but also cancer survivors? continued - please go to part 2