Sports mentality to blame for cheating

Every spectator would like to think that sports are clean and pure. In fact, sports are based on the –premise that each competition takes place on an even playing field, with only size, skill, and wit determining the outcome. This premise is unfortunately flawed.

The same competitive drive that makes athletes train for hours a day to become their best also drives them to find any edge possible to gain an advantage.

Lance Armstrong was supposed to be the poster child for doing things the right way. In a sport filled with doping, Armstrong was the glimmer of hope that training and natural ability can out perform drugs.

After his publicized bout with cancer, Armstrong went on to win seven consecutive Tour de Frances, setting a new record for the sport. He met accusations of doping with fierce rebuttal, then used his fame to create and lead Livestrong, an organization dedicated to fighting cancer, branded by those trademark yellow Livestrong rubber bracelets.

This idealistic image came crashing down after Armstrong’s admission to Oprah Winfrey that he did in fact use Human Growth Hormones (HGH), blood doping, and other banned substances to help win each of his titles. His confession came on the heels of his refusal to continue fighting United States Anti-Doping Agency charges. This defeat ended with Armstrong’s lifetime ban from the sport.

Armstrong negated much of his great charity work with his blatant lies about doping.

He once ruined several reporters’ careers after they attempted to make allegations about his drug usage. Positive views of him are no longer in the court of public opinion.

But is America really upset about his drug use or his lies? After all, more than a third of the top 10 finishers in the Tour de France since 1998 have admitted to using performance enhancing drugs.

When talking about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), steroids and baseball are the first things that come to mind.

Baseball’s steroid era went well into the last decade, with its first stars now facing the true court of public opinion, the National Baseball Hall of Fame committee.

That committee, made up of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, has made it quite clear that they believe no player that has ever been linked to steroids should be admitted to the Hall of Fame.

This seems contradictory since, before steroids, the use of amphetamines (also known as “greenies”) among baseball players was substantial.

Many current Hall of Famers have admitted to taking greenies on a near daily basis, and yet they do not have the stigma that steroid usage has attached to them.

Some current drug tests consist solely of a urine test and can be used to identify steroids and other common PEDs (such as Viagra or Adderall), but HGH and other designer drugs can only be identified using a more invasive blood test.

The MLB just approved blood testing for the upcoming season, and the NFL and NBA are currently in talks to implement testing for their upcoming seasons. These new testing protocols have increased the market for both designer and natural, and thus legal, PEDs.

While little is known about designer drugs, all natural, legal alternatives to steroids are gaining press.

The little information we know about designer drugs comes from month-long exposés into personal health clinics that are masquerades for drug clinics. One of these clinics was recently busted in South Florida.
Natural alternatives have also been in the news. The most recent example of these new alternative enhancers is the two-man company Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS).

Sports Illustrated ran a large exposé on the company and their main product, deer-antler spray, just before the Super Bowl. A large portion of the article focused on Baltimore Ravens’ veteran linebacker Ray Lewis and his unusually speedy recover from a torn right tricep.

Deer-antler spray is formulated from the antlers of a New Zealand species of deer. Its effect comes from its high concentrations of IGF-1, or insulin-like growth factor.

IGF-1 is banned by every pro league as well as the NCAA, but there is still very little that can be done to test for it with enough accuracy to punish players based on its findings.

Athletes will always be looking for the item, or supplement, that will give them an edge, whether it’s HGH, greenies, or deer-antler spray.

As long as Americans continue to idealize the “win at all costs” mentality, we must also accept the fact that PEDs and other cheating methods will be a part of sports.

While we should never give up on trying to keep cheating out of the game, it is important to remember that all of the loopholes and PEDs are available to every player, thus creating a uniquely level playing field for each era.

Therefore, we can feel confident electing the best players of each generation to the Hall of Fame, knowing that they were the best among their peers, and that true transgenerational comparisons, while fun, are also trivial.