On Hero Worship and the New Reality in Athletics

Posted on 18 November 2013

If I am reading this correctly then Lance Armstrong admits to doping but contends he was allowed to get away with it due to complicity among the higher-ups. Basically the UCI, USPS, (and NBC?) was covering up Armstong’s doping (to increase American viewership of the Tour de France?). For me the story isn’t about who did what but the plain facts that Armstrong – and others – cheated, it doesn’t matter WHO allowed him and his team to get away with it – especially when others were doing it and they got banned or fined while Armstrong got away with it. Cheating is cheating but, if we have to look at all this through the lens of the MLB and NFL then we should just stop banning doping altogether and admit that there’s nothing natural about world-class athletes anymore. They’re (mis)treated like race horses except that, as humans, they made the choice to allow the drugs into their systems.

Nor can I feel pity for Armstrong and his cancer now that I know he doped. He’s not an East German athlete who had no idea what was happening because they were ordered by the state. No, Armstrong turned his “tragedy” into a full-blown cause and non-profit, making money off his cheating and — let’s face it — drug use.

The worst part is that he was a role-model and played-up that fact. Just like the NFL, NBA, MLB, and other players that dope and cheat: they may say kids shouldn’t look up to them but, in reality, kids (and parents) do. Going after others, pointing fingers, laying blame, and filing court cases just continues to set bad examples and precedents. MLB has had to admit we’re in a post-doping world just like America’s image (in cycling) is forever tarnished by what Armstrong did, even if others were complicit. I don’t put it past his sponsors, the media (especially NBC), and the sanctioning body to try and cover the doping up “for the good of the sport” because it increased the popularity of cycling as a whole. But, even if that’s true, I find it hard to excuse Armstrong, the man, for what he did. Unfortunately, there aren’t (m)any William Mulholland’s left in the world who take full responsibility for disasters they helped create.

Think about this as you tune into the Winter Olympics this February and hear the announcers praise the athletes over and over again as records are broken and their abilities are marveled at. Yes, there ARE true athletes but from all reports, their numbers are decreasing in favor of the chemically-enhanced superhumans. Whether it’s Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, or José Canseco…cheating is cheating, plain and simple.

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