Spread the blame for drug cheating

A few quick thoughts in response to the Four Corners program on Monday night featuring the Lance Armstrong drug scandal:

If Armstrong is guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs he should be stripped of his seven tour titles. It’s simple: taking PEDs is cheating. (Tanking in footy is a similar analogy. Clubs who tank are cheating. But that’s another argument for another day, I suppose.)

However, as always in life, nothing is cut and dry or black and white and with this issue in particular, sections of the media and public are focusing their ire and pointing their fingers in the wrong direction.

Many athletes take PEDs because they have to. Ben Johnson was told: ‘If you want to make it, take it’. Expectations from event organisers, sponsors, team management, peers, the public and media pressurize athletes to cheat. In terms of le tour, we all love sitting back in our comfy living rooms, taking in the beautiful French countryside while marveling at the fitness and courage of the cyclists who flash past at breakneck speed. But at what cost to themselves do they do this? Do we ever really believe they are performing these feats unassisted? Who hasn’t quietly questioned Lance or Cadel?

Riding 200+kms a day for three weeks is tough enough, but with expectations from the above mentioned sources, you can see why PEDs are an option. Remember what Tyler Hamilton said on Monday night? He was ‘swept up in the whole thing’ and really didn’t have a choice. If he had refused to cheat his career may have been over. The team masseur who spoke out against the practices of the US Postal team was called a ‘traitor’. Justin Charles, the AFL player ‘busted’ for using steroids did so out of desperation, to overcome injury. His career and financial future depended on it. Athletes are under a lot of pressure to ‘take it’.

What struck me about Monday night’s episode was how blase Armstrong and his team appeared. That typical feeling of invincibility took over and clouded judgment. Of course, something had to give and eventually people talked.

There are many reasons why athletes cheat and take PEDs, but not all are personal or selfish. There are other parties to blame and until expectations and pressure on athletes decrease (like that’s going to ever happen?), drug cheating will continue.

Comments

  1. Pamela Sherpa says:

    Andrew, you’ve highlighted the point I replied to the a previous article about this- There is a bigger question that needs to be asked. Why have and do sporting authorities allow so much cheating to take place ? The environment of professional sport is now such that winning is all consuming and authorities are willing to turn a blind eye to what athletes get away with to enhance their own organization’s image. The blow torch is being applied to Lance Armstrong but it is the sport that allowed this to happen and needs to put itself under the microscope.

  2. That is a very good question Pamela.

    I would like to ask the big bloke of the AFL that very same one as cheating, sometimes very subtly, seems to be institutionalised in most sports.

    It may just be a power thing.

  3. DBalassone says:

    No one has yet been able to explain to me why it took 10-15 years for these allegations re Armstrong to be verified? Disgrace. Have the drug testers been sitting on the samples this whole time, and continually retesting the samples just to make sure they are sure? It seems strange when you consider Floyd Landis got busted soon after his 2006 win.

  4. Peter Flynn says:

    UCI

    Fear

    Money

    ‘Dopey’ testing procedures designed to fail

    Corrupt/complicit doctors and team managers

    Can take years to develop good testing

    To fix the problem, Armstrong needed to be outed. In a sense, Armstrong was cycling. Now cycling has some chance.

    As the Almanac’s own cycling aficionado Mark Doyle rightly points out, the use of many enhancements has been going on for decades.

    I still can’t get the images of Tommy Simpson’s last metres on a bike out of my head.

  5. Andrew Starkie says:

    Perhaps the policies and practices of UCI are similar to those of American athletics: controlled doping as opposed to doping control. Carl Lewis blew positive three times before the ’88 Games then elevated himself to the higher moral ground when Johnson was busted. Marion Jones was a scapegoat for decades of doping.

    Phantom, as I said, tanking is cheating as much as doping is.

  6. Peter Flynn says:

    I like the ‘controlled doping as opposed to doping control’ line Starks.

    Good summation.

  7. DBalassone says:

    If that is the case, isn’t the fact that the cycling/doping authorities
    were covering it up, an even bigger disgrace than Lance’s doping?

  8. Andrew Starkie says:

    yep, db

  9. As much as athletics, it probably best mirrors Wall Street. Daniel Coyle, author of ‘The Secret Race’, compares the two cultures, writes in a piece for Slate that:

    “… the behavior in question was driven by a distinct set of social forces, including a win-at-all-costs culture, lack of regulation, and the credulousness of journalists and the public.”

  10. Andrew Starkie says:

    yeah Craig, but don’t we expect that culture from professional sportspeople?

  11. I’d suggest that with the money now involved, you’d be naive if you expected anything else…

  12. A few thoughts run through my mind perusing Andrews’ article, with the subsequent responses.

    Firstly, the commodification of sport. Sport is big business, and like all business money is pivotal. Are we really suprised in this context this sort of behaviour should be displayed, to win for fortune, and fame?

    The second point very much links to the previous. In the last few weeks Horse Racing in Victoria has had a big pall begin to descend over it, having the suspension of Danny Nikolic, with still more unanswered questions re aspects of his racing, and its links . On top of this there is the drama with Damien Oliver, as well as allegations re Jimmy Cassidy being featured on the front page of todays Age. Horse racing has always been a sport with its share of interesting characters, and strange episodes. Gambling by its very nature will always have an element of the ‘dodgy’ about it . But the recent expose of what’s happening in the racing world has more questions than answers; so far. There has been the recent ‘sting’ involving 6 cricket umpires from the sub continent. This of course come on top of the Lance Armstrong situation. Though these three case are all quite different, there is a link, which is about making money from their chosen sport, more by foul measures than fair.

    Commodities, corruption, does a Chinese wall seperate them. With the increase in technology, access to money,and lots of it, sport as i knew it in the 20th century, has gone . Now it strikes as simply being a business, in its myriad of forms. Looking @ Litzas posting , the way sport is now conducted reflect the social mores our society displays with the desire to make money, regardless of how, being the primary featue of this contemporary world.

    Glen!

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