The 7th Inning Stretch – Drugs in Sport
Breaking News: allegations arise against former seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong on blood-doping… How many times have we heard this? Not only about the great Lance Armstrong but about most every successful cyclist of the past 10 years. Cheating in cycling has hit a critical mass in the last decade and I for one am quickly losing interest in this sport as a result.
There has always been scepticism surrounding Lance Armstrong and his famous seven Tour de France victories. He is one of the most tested men in the history of sport and yet until just recently there has been no damning evidence against him. That was until former teammate Tyler Hamilton was forced to testify to a grand jury about Lance Armstrong and his link with the performance enhancing drug EPO which is a human blood-cell that can be taken out of someone and then put back in later to increase red blood-cell production. He then proceeded to be interviewed on 60 Minutes where he categorically stated that he had witnessed Lance Armstrong inject himself with EPO during the Tour de Suisse in the same year that he won the Tour de France.
Now Tyler Hamilton is a drug-cheat himself, and many drug-cheats have also accused Armstrong including disgraced Tour de France winner Floyd Landis. Typically the public do not readily trust these people and so Armstrong and his ‘no positive tests’ have been trusted by the public. But this time, Hamilton is not only telling his story to the Press put also to a grand jury. It is also thought that the clean George Hincapie has also given evidence which could be damning to Armstrong’s cause.
Now this would be a great shame on the sport of cycling if this ends up being true, especially as it is now suspected that positive tests on Armstrong were covered up by the governing body. So where would cycling go from here? Would this be the final nail in the sport’s coffin or could it mean the legal introduction of performance enhancing drugs into sport?
There are a number of arguments for and against drugs in sport and it would seem that with every new scandal you have to lean slightly more towards the ‘for’ side when it comes to cycling. There are so many drug-cheats and they all have the same excuse “well everyone else was doing it, so we just wanted to level the playing field”. It would almost seem now that just letting everyone utilise performance enhancing drugs would level the playing field in cycling. Because there sure isn’t a level one at the moment, assuming that everyone isn’t already cheating.
Another argument for drugs in sport is that it would allow people to witness humans at their fastest, strongest, most elite levels. Imagine how fast someone could run the 100m and all the home-runs we would see like in early 2000s baseball. And we might think the Tour de France was pathetic if we saw people struggle up hills once again if there were no drugs in sport.
But is this really what we want? Moving forward, it may seem impractical to not allow drugs into sport because we will never see a fair, level playing field. But surely we have a responsibility to at least try and keep drugs out of sport. Because for me, drugs and sport cannot co-exist within a model where the integrity of sport is paramount. I do not want to see people running fast because they have taken a whole lot of drugs; I want to see the natural height of human accomplishment.
It will be a shame to see such a great man like Armstrong brought down because of doping. The way he defeated cancer, triumphed in adversity, and has used his profile for the greater human good with the creation of the charity Livestrong, is the absolute embodiment of what people love about sport. However, this will mar his integrity just as he will have devastated the integrity of sport. It is essential, if Armstrong is found guilty of blood-doping, that sport and drug institutions utilise the profile of this devastating truth to try and enhance the anti-doping cause. I for one do not want to see another champion embroiled in drug controversy. We don’t need any more Marion Joneses and Floyd Landises. We need true champions.