24 April 2007
cheaters never win
Do you remember when your mom, dad, teacher, and coach use to tell you cheaters never win. In today's billion dollar world of sports and entertainment, it is sometimes difficult to feel that this is true. The examples of cheaters are everywhere in sports - be it the obvious, Ben Johnson, or the sublime, Kenny Rogers - cheaters win. It is as simple as that. Yes, some of them get caught, but I guess we will never know the extent to which others do not get caught.
I promise to you, my readers, further blogging on Barry Bonds, who I happen to love by the way, but for today, I would like to discuss Floyd Landis.
What exactly is cheating? Not playing by the rules, right? Well, when someone takes a penalty in hockey, that is not playing by the rules, but we don't call this cheating. When someone takes performance enhancing drugs, that is cheating. Right? Well, what about using new high tech equipment in golf, that's not cheating. You may have thought cheating was simple, but I don't think it is so simple. In today's sports, athletes pay thousands of dollars to sports psychologists, message therapists, nutrition experts, all in the hopes of winning. If an athlete takes all these steps to win, what can you say about an athlete who is not genetically as gifted as another, but has just as much determination and mental fortitude? What if this athlete uses substances to make up for the lack of physical talent?
The fact is, cheating is easy to notice. It has to do with ethics. Cheating, in my opinion, is behavior that is unethical. That is why Floyd Landis really frustrates me. I mean, come on buddy, you cheated, just admit it. You may remember Landis as the reigning Tour de France champion. Here he is, in full biking regalia
Look, the Tour de France is a cheater's haven. There is little doubt that much of the controversy stems from the French disdain from seeing another American take their coveted title. Landis was declared the winner of the 2006 Tour, but controversy ensued after his blood sample was found to have tested positive for elevated ratios of testosterone to epitestosterone. Both his sample and his backup sample failed the test. At this point, Landis chose to explain his failed tests by stating that his body simply produced elevated levels of testosterone. Seems plausible. Except for the fact that the New York Times then reported that synthetic testosterone was found in his body. Oops. That must be from wearing those tights so much. That's the explanation. No wait, drinking alcohol, dehydration, thyroid medication, and a conspiracy against him are the explanations.
Ethics have been lost in sports. At least at the highest levels. They have been clouded by money, fame, and the tremendous pressure that athletes place on themselves to win. Not only self-imposed, this pressure is created by a culture of must win attitudes. Look, the Tour de France is freaking difficult just to complete. I don't fault Landis for taking drugs to beat a bunch of other drugged up athletes. He still required the mental toughness to come back from a 7 minutes deficit. I wish he could show some of that same mental resolve now by simply admitting that he cheated.