Steroids and Doping: A Different Angle...continued
It is easy to be either realistic or cynical when watching all of our heroes or those we look to for leadership or inspiration tumble down the harsh slope of their own crushed reputation. Let's remember that everyone seems to have a skeleton in the closet, the 800-pound gorilla sitting in the room. That's the reality. We're cynical because we have become used to and almost expectant that anyone and everyone in the limelight will be accused of illicit or immoral behavior.
When a sport's generation of future Hall of Famers gets nailed - as did baseball with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, et. al., the cynicism only increases. Look at the constant skepticism about Albert Pujols. He must have put up 10 years of hitting numbers akin to Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth and Ted Williams because he's juiced, a lot of people say and Sports Illustrated investigated in an infamous Spring 2010 cover story - yet he's been clean as a whistle.
Perhaps the realism or cynicism is our problem. As fans, maybe it is our unreal expectation and desire for athletic stars to perform superhuman feats that is the cause for the problems of sport? Sporting events are merely games and entertainment. Yet, we continue to put sports heroes on the highest of pedestals. Show me any human being worthy of such praise and adulation and I will show you a chink in the armor.
What troubles me more than whether or not Lance Armstrong doped, along with what appears to be the entire cycling world, is the affect of these accusations on the thousands of people around the world fighting cancer. For these people, the Tour was not merely about a bunch of people trying to be the fastest to the finish line, but life and the inspiration to live. This is not a game for the individual who is fighting cancer.
Lance Armstrong has become bigger than the Tour. His victory over cancer, the inspiration he has provided those fighting cancer along with the millions of dollars donated by his foundation, trumps any Floyd Landis catharsis or attempt at cleaning up the sport. If every Landis accusation is true, then all the cyclists at the top were competing on the same playing field and Lance was still the best. He still won.
The fans and the purists might shake the hand of Landis and say "thank you" for cleaning up the sport that we all love. All of us as fans, might look forward to the day we are guaranteed a "clean" competition.
But what about the people who do not care just about entertainment and games? What about those looking for any and every bit of inspiration and energy to persevere and live another day?
"On their behalf, I would ask Floyd Landis and any other disgraced whistleblower, Jose Canseco included, "What motivated you? A pure desire to clean up the sport in which you competed, excelled, loved and lost because of your mistake? Or clearing your name and making money?"
It's a fair question that demands a fair response.