P.E.D.'s - The Sad State of Sports in America Today
Is he a cheat, or just good?
Victorious no more
PED's in Sports Today
The Sad State of Professional Athletics
As I was driving home last evening, I was listening to a local sports talk radio station as the announcers were discussing Yankee great Derek Jeter. He turned 38 years old this summer, and according to these professionals, he is too far past his prime to put up the kind of statistics he is this year. They say he must be suspect, and we as fans must think, at least to some degree, that he is a cheater. That he is on some kind of performance enhancing drugs, in order to hit twice as many home runs this year as last (12 to 6), or to hit for a high average as he is doing, or any other of a myriad of stats which should be past his ability to hit, or drive in, or run, or anything else.
As I listened, I could only think “How sad it is to us as fans, that every great feat, or even something merely good at times, must be thought of as suspect”. PED’s or Performance Enhancing Drugs, have become so prevalent in sports that anything out of the ordinary is looked upon with a jaundiced eye. Even with the stiff penalties of Baseball (50 game suspension with the first positive test) some people still believe they can beat the test, or maybe talk their way out of it. Last year’s National League MVP Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers, tested positive for a banned substance. The league was in shock, as everyone thought Braun was above this possibility. The fear that the reigning MVP would be banned sent shockwaves throughout the entire sporting world. Then, in a move unprecedented, the league overturned the 50 game suspension saying that there was a break in the chain of custody involving the sample which tested positive. Braun was re-instated, and the league breathed a huge sigh of relief.
Now, however, the league has a somewhat larger problem looming. Melky Cabrera, of the San Francisco Giants tested positive for having too much testosterone. He has received a 50 game suspension, and is going to be out the rest of the season. The problem is, he was hitting for an average which is currently second in the league in batting average. Should the fates will it, if the player hitting first in the National League, currently Pittsburgh Pirate Andrew McCutcheon, were to falter, the league would be forced to crown a disgraced drug abuser in Cabrera the National League Batting Champion. How low can you go?
Well, to me, lower yet is accusing Jeter of cheating. This man has been a model of consistency throughout his Hall of Fame career, yet some announcers are casting doubt and throwing mud on him for being associated with such cheaters as exist in sports, simply because he is doing better than they think he should at this point in his career. Shocking! Because a man works hard, and does well at age 38, he must be a drug user and a cheat. Wow.
On behalf of regular fans everywhere, I apologize to you, Derek Jeter. I am not a Yankee fan, rather I support the St Louis Cardinals as my team of choice. But, I must admit, Jeter has been a classy individual throughout his career, and has by all appearances done it the old fashioned way: he earned it. Through hard work, dedication, and sheer determination, he will go into the Hall of Fame with his head held high, and all of the Judas’ ready to sell him for their thirty pieces of silver in order to sell a story will be left behind, ne’er to be recalled except as fools who doubted a great sports figure.
Then, this morning driving to work, I was listening to the same radio station. I only have a few miles to and from work, so actually hear very little about the sporting world during my eight minute drive, but sometimes a lot can be said in those few moments. Today’s message was another one of sorrow and loss of reputation. Lance Armstrong, the most decorated cyclist in American history, is giving up his struggle against the United States Anti-Doping Agency. They have contended for several years now that he was a cheater, and used performance enhancing drugs. It matters not that he has passed in excess of 500 tests, or that he is the most tested athlete in history: they continue to nip at his heels like a pack of dogs chasing the fox, and drive him to the point of his finally saying “Enough! I will no longer fight you to clear my name of any wrong doings. I give up.” Again, let me state he has NEVER failed a drug test. NEVER! There have been accusations, but no evidence was brought to bear that conclusively named him as a cheat. Yet the USADA (I am calling them U-SAD for how sad they are in this incident) have hounded him to the point where he says enough is enough, and is going to walk away quietly for his family’s sake. This is the greatest athlete in the history of the sport that is having his records rejected; his seven Tour de France (which I have called Tour de Farce for some of their methods which include only one member of a seven or eight member team being allowed to be the winner) titles stripped; and his Olympic medals removed, as well. Again, I stress, how sad are our sports? This man has yet to be proven guilty, but rather than fight them anymore, he is walking away with his head hung in shame. I feel for you, Lance. I feel for you, Derek. I feel for all those unjustly judged and crucified because of others who are guilty of cheating by the definition of the sport. I am reaching a point where I have to ask, just how much is gained by using these PED’s? Has it been conclusively measured to determine it gives a pitcher 5 mph on a fastball? A batter 20 more feet on a homerun? A runner dropping a tenth of a second in a 100 meter race? Or a cyclist more speed or endurance? And is it worth our love of sports to declaim all those who might just be doing it the right way as suspects in this criminal case? Should we stop caring if someone is using testosterone to heal quicker, or feel stronger? I no longer know; but I can say I myself have reached the point of no return: I no longer care. I just want to see a baseball game, and watch these superb athletes perform.
UPDATE: Lance Armstrong has been banned from a sport he no longer competes in; has lost his "job" with Nike and Livestrong. I still believe he is innocent of these allegations, and is doing this his way, to limit the damage to these companies. That many tests passed speaks volumes to me, and I may be simple, but I do not believe him guilty. Is this a witch hunt? Is this fear and jealosy? Or is he really guilty? I don't know, but my faith still believes in the old standard of "Innocent until PROVEN guilty". Perhaps the media today has forgotten that axiom, in their haste to sling mud and sell papers and draw viewers to them. What would this country be like if we all treated others the way we ourselves wanted to be treated? At any rate, there you have it. Side with me or not; I still believe.
UPDATE January 15, 2013
I believe no more.
On Thursday, January 17, 2013 Lance Armstrong speaks with Oprah Winfrey to discuss his alleged cheating in the sport of cycling. The word is he will admit to doping using PED's. My first thought was Say it ain't so. My second though following close on the heels of the first is How dare you?!?
How dare you proclaim your innocence for so long and so loud, drawing those like myself into your web of deceit. How dare you say everybody else cheats but you. How dare you use drugs to enhance your stature in a sport many, myself included, feel is a farce to begin with. But most of all I am angry at myself for wanting to believe in the world of sports today that there is an innocent man. Perhaps, from this point going forward, I should look upon every single purported athlete as a cheater first and force them to prove their innocence. Perhaps we all should. But I fear most people will not care if they cheat or not. Such is the state of the world today. How very sad.
It is being bandied about that cycling is the single dirtiest sport on the planet; a sport where it is almost epidemic in proportion. Where everybody cheats. IF this is so, then there must be complicity in the hierarchy, and the "bosses" must know. Nobody, I mean NOBODY can pass almost 600 tests over the years without having help in the upper ranks of the sport. Perhaps, rather than stripping Armstrong of his titles, and giving them to the next cheater in line, they should just say "Ok, we all cheat. He keeps his titles, and we slap ourselves on the wrist."
No, I think the SPORT itself should ban itself for the next few years. Rather than single out the most decorated athlete in the history of the sport and crushing him, they should look to the entire sport and ban everybody in the sport for five years. If everybody cheats, then ban them all.
For myself, I never thought much about cycling, but will think about it no more forever. And as each sport suspends another cheat, or bans another cheat, or acknowledges another cheat, I will take one more brick out of the wall of sports until the foundation is laid bare, and eventually nothing will stand to watch. I am done. I do not cheat; I do not believe in it. I am no holier than thou person; I simply have morals. I doubt if any person pursuing a career in sports, where you are paid to play a game most of us are simply not good enough to do, are honest enough to play the game the way it was supposed to be played.
There are no honest men left in sports, are there? I no longer know for sure. For that loss, I am sorry. Not for them, but for myself and other fans who feel the same way.