By: Maayan Schechter – Asst. Campus Voice Editor – [email protected]
Former Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong is not just having the worst week ever; he is undoubtedly having the worst year ever.
As of today, Armstrong has been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union after Armstrong was found guilty of doping by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. He has also stepped down as chairman of the Livestrong cancer-awareness charity he founded. Everyday, old critics of Armstrong are coming out of the dust and speaking out in disgust of the cyclist. Even a Texas insurance company that once rejected Armstrong due to doping and a $5 million bonus for winning a Tour de France is now trying to win all of its money back in court. London’s Sunday Times may also sue Armstrong over a libel case about doping that Armstrong brought against the newspaper, which resulted in a large sum payment.
The report filed by the USADA involved hundreds of pages of testimony and evidence, including affidavits of key critics such as former Tour de France winner Floyd Landis as well as prominent U.S. cyclist George Hincapie. The USADA has called this report the most sophisticated doping program in cycling history.
Now any news to do with doping or the failure of sports will have Armstrong’s name and head hanging on the line.
This is not the first time the sports world has heard of doping. Major League Baseball player known for hitting the most home runs, Barry Bonds, was found guilty of obstructing a federal court jury after giving a vague answer about whether he doped or not. Track and field powerhouse Marion Jones wound up in jail and was stripped of five Olympic medals for doping.
Doping has been around since the earliest Olympics. In the 1904 Games, athletes would drink mixtures of powerful drugs to help them be better athletes. Drugs were not considered cheating.
But, in the 1960 Olympics, a Danish cyclist by the name of Knut Jensen passed out during a race, cracked his skull and later died. The coroner filed a report that the cyclist was using amphetamines, and thus the anti-doping rules began. In 1968, the Games began to drug test in order to protect athlete health.
However, athletes, scientists and managers got smart. Now there are ways to maneuver around the anti-doping laws using anabolic steroids, hormones and medications for asthma, which are all potentially dangerous if abused.
Doping in professional sports is no joke to Olympic medalist DeeDee Trotter. Trotter, who ran in the Athens and London Games, created Test Me I’m Clean! to provide an avenue for athletes to boldly profess that they are clean.
“The main goal of the organization was, and is still, to educate, inspire and motivate our youth and futures stars to believe they can achieve great success in their sport and their lives by being hard working, honest and honorable individuals,” Trotter said via email.
Trotter believes the current Lance Armstrong scandal should be a huge deterrence.
“The embarrassment, shame and disgrace of what these actions have brought forth should, and I personally hope will, have a lasting presence as it relates to discouraging this type of behavior in the future.”
Trotter’s final message is to athletes in college who consider doping.
“If you want to be the best at anything you choose to do, you have to embrace the 3 H’s: Hard work, honesty and honor,” Trotter said. “I am living proof of that. You can accomplish great things if you believe in yourself and have a never give up mentality.”
Trotter founded her organization because of her zero tolerance when it comes to doping and believes those found guilty of using performance enhancement drugs should receive a sanction fitting the violation.
“With that being said, I believe that a lifetime ban should mean just that, and should not have a specific amount of years attached to it,” Trotter said.
When the argument arises that legalizing sports enhancement drugs would neutralize the system and put all athletes on the same playing field, Trotter thinks that concept is “absolutely absurd.”
“Not only would this not even the playing field, it would also be jeopardizing the health of all athletes involved,” Trotter said. “Let’s say taking steroids was legalized, this still wouldn’t level the playing field because the athletes that posses greater income could provide themselves with top quality PED’s where as those with less money would have access to whatever they could afford which wouldn’t allow them to have the same enhanced abilities. It’s simply an idiotic choice.”
To Armstrong, Trotter has strong words.
“Every time something like this occurs, it takes a little wind out of the sails,” Trotter said. “How can we move forward when so often our children’s role models and our sports heros are constantly falling overboard, subject to behaviors that we would never want to expose our children to or ever have them follow suit.”
Trotter takes great pride in being a professional athlete and tells all future stars, “There is no shortcut to greatness. Just work, sacrifice and an undying will to achieve your ultimate dream.”
Point blank, Armstrong knew better. Any professional athlete who turns to doping simply knows better. Athletes who dope are not just destroying their careers or disappointing the ones who care about them.They are also hurting the children and young athletes who aspire to be them.
Using performance-enhancing drugs will never be erased from professional athletics. Today, athletes are not just competing for their jobs, but also for millions in endorsement deals and sponsors. According to Forbes, Armstrong was worth $70 million. Modern culture encourages athletes to not just be the best, but beat his or her best. We get bored when a professional baseball player hits 30 home runs, so next season we want to see at least double that. Sports audiences globally love record-breaking scores. But just because we know that athletes are using drugs does not mean we should legalize it.
The 21st century’s reality is that sports enhancing drugs will continue to exist. We could take away the taboo because just like athletes, regular people take legal pharmaceuticals everyday.
So why do we hold athletes to a higher level? Should this societal taboo hold Armstrong to a higher pedestal? The man beat testicular cancer and returned as not just a professional athlete, but as the best
The answer is simple. Professional athletes are paid millions of dollars to do something that most humans are unable to do.
We all wish to throw a ball at 90 miles an hour and run like Usain Bolt. Professional athletes receive a remarkable gift that they are allowed to use as not just a hobby, but a career.
Therefore, there should be an expectation that when a professional athlete takes the field or the court, he or she is expected to perform based on nature talent and hardwork.