As a sports fan, I have long grown numb to periodic reports that such and such an athlete has been suspended for using banned substances.
I didn’t bat an eye when it was announced this month that the San Francisco Giants’ Melkey Cabrera and Bartolo Colon of the Oakland A’s had each been suspended 50 games for testosterone use. It’s only because I’m a Kansas City Chiefs fan that I might have sighed deeply when I learned that Tamba Hali, the team’s outstanding pass rusher, will have to sit out a one-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse.
Maybe my reaction would have been stronger had it been a member of the St. Louis Cardinals being penalized. Maybe not.
Every athlete tries to gain an advantage over the competition, but most do it legally by working their tail off conditioning, eating right and by investing countless hours honing the skills necessary to excel in their particular sport.
I tried to help my four oldest children gain a competitive edge by taking them out on 95-degree summer afternoons to practice their baseball/softball skills. All the work probably seemed a waste of time until Caleb discovered he could track a fly ball, Jacob realized he could pitch well, Amber learned she could thump a pitch and Amanda found out she could lay down a beautiful bunt.
Unfortunately, we live in an era when some athletes do more than train hard, eat right and practice. Some try to get ahead by using performance-enhancing drugs, which in most sports is a prohibited way to get ahead.
Still, athletes try to beat the system. Why? Do they think they are smarter than everyone else and can get away with it? Do they ever think what it will do to their reputation … their legacy if they’re discovered cheating?
Despite his on-field accomplishments and all the charitable work he has done in Kansas City, Hali’s resume will always include his one-game suspension for substance abuse.
If there is an athlete whose legacy will take a big hit for alleged cheating, it’s superstar cyclist Lance Armstrong, who last week announced he will not pursue arbitration in the drug case brought against him by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.
Who can forget Armstrong’s seven consecutive Tour de France titles after his recovery from life-threatening testicular cancer? But Friday he was stripped of the Tour titles he won from 1999 through 2005. He also stands to lose other awards, titles and cash prizes he earned between Aug. 1, 1998 and Aug. 23, 2012, including a bonze medal he received during the 2000 Olympic Games.
It’s also unknown how Armstrong’s decision to not fight on will impact his foundation, which has promoted cancer awareness and raised hundreds of millions of dollars for research since its founding in 1997.
It’s important to note that the Texan maintains his innocence.
“There is zero physical evidence to support (the) outlandish and heinous claims,” said Armstrong in an Associated Press story. “The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of (doping) controls I have passed with flying colors.”
Then why give up the fight for his reputation?
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now,” said Armstrong.
The biking legend contends his decision is not an admission of guilt, but as John Fahey, president of the World Anti-Doping Agency, said, “He had a right to contest the charges. He chose not to. The simple fact is that his refusal to examine the evidence means the charges had substance to them.”
It seems odd to me that this renowned bicycle pedaler, whose fierce competitive spirit was his trademark, would choose to “coast” now with so much at stake.