The Comp(l)ete Dope

I see that famous cyclist and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong has been stripped of his racing titles for doping.  I also heard something about baseball players being suspended for steroids earlier this week.  [I don’t closely follow cycling or baseball, so I should mention that what follows is based on only cursory knowledge of the events in question.]

Athletes are competitive.  They will do anything to get an edge.  So, why is anyone surprised by this?  In a sense, what they’re doing is no different than experimenting with diets to enhance their performance.  It’s just that these substances are banned by the rules of competition.

Here’s the thing: it’s been seven years since Armstrong won these races.  Stripping him of them now may hurt his image a bit, (although I don’t think anyone can deny that his is a remarkable story anyway)  but he and everyone else knows that he won those races.  It happened.  You might say “he cheated”, but from what I have read, lots of other people in the sport at the time cheated too.  When everyone’s cheating everyone else, it’s hard to figure out who was victimized

There is not much point in punishing Armstrong after the fact, because he still got to be in those races, and win them.  To an athlete, I suspect that’s all that really matters.  They’re willing to take the risk to gain a competitive edge.  If that seems crazy to you, well, it does to me, too.  But I’m not a pro athlete.

I’m not defending Armstrong.  He broke the rules, and deserves to be punished accordingly.  I am just saying that the regulatory bodies need to either be able to prevent athletes who cheat this way from participating in the event beforehand, or else they need to throw up their hands and admit they can’t do anything.  If the most they can do is punish someone after the fact, I don’t think it will change anything.  Ultra-competitive athletes will take that chance every time.

12 Comments

  1. It’s a shame, really- the whole fiasco. He’s a tremendous athlete, regardless, and I honestly can’t find fault with him on a personal level- it’s his body, and the risks were his to take. Now he’s paying the price- one of the risks he knew he was taking. But it’s never pleasant to see an international idol take a fall like this.

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    1. To me, it doesn’t really tarnish the guy’s achievement. After what he came back from, it’s still amazing, whatever substances he used. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me that he, of all people, deserves a little leeway for this. Not that he doesn’t have to abide by the rules, of course, but I don’t think he necessarily needs to be condemned and disgraced in the court of public opinion.

      On the other hand, as some of my friends have argued to me, why did he feel the need to cheat at all, when just competing in the race would have been a remarkable accomplishment enough? I say it goes back to the competitiveness thing: elite athletes just can’t “take it down a notch”.

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  2. Steroids and other substances are detectible, but what he’s charged with and other athletes is having too high a testosterone level. A naturally occuring substance in women and men. He has the right to replace that substance that he lost due to his illness. This is more about the French hating that an American could win 7 of their championships in a row. Years from now this will be looked on like taking the medals away from Jim Thorpe: a sports crime.

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  3. I say all athletes should be able to dope up. Why should anyone care? It’s their bodies they can do what they want. And it would at least make baseball semi-watchable. Maybe.

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    1. Not a bad idea. It would be simpler than trying to enforce all these rules. Athletes diet, eat protein meals and drink specially designed energy drinks, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to take whatever other substances they want?

      I guess viewers want to see what a person can do “naturally”, but that’s hard to define. If everybody were allowed to do it, it wouldn’t be giving anybody an unfair advantage.

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      1. And to the detractors, those who say they would be forced to do it to compete, you don’t have to. If they don’t like it they can get a REAL job instead of hitting a ball around for millions of dollars.

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