If you have to cheat, why compete?
Marion Jones lost it all due to doping, as Lance Armstrong battles damning allegations and evidence from USADA (Image: AFP)
When the mountain of evidence surfaced showing Lance Armstrong was not only a long-term performance-enhancing drug-taker, but a ring-leader in its distribution, I was disgusted.
When Marion Jones was busted, I was gutted.
When confessed drug-taker Tyler Hamilton came out strongly in support of Australian Cadel Evans as being squeaky clean, I was delighted.
But Armstrong is the continuing story, and will be for some time. At least half the sporting world of competitors and fans revered him as a phenomenal athlete, winning seven successive Tour de France campaigns, the undisputed toughest sporting event in the world.
All those supporters feel cheated.
But I have a sneaking suspicion he could have been a phenomenal athlete had he been clean.
Now 41, and banned from cycling, Armstrong is successfully competing in triathlons and half-marathons. That’s a genuine indication he is still someone well out of the ordinary.
So why did he have to cheat?
Cycling has been a dirty sport for some time. A case of the medicos staying just in front of the drug-testers while senior administrators sit on their hands and pretend the world is a bed of roses.
Three Tour de France champions have been rubbed out in the last six years – Floyd Landis, Alberto Contador, and now Armstrong. When is the penny going to drop?
I met Marion Jones during the Sydney 2000 Olympics. You could never meet a more vivacious out-going young woman, and what a superb athlete, winning five medals.
Seven years later she was found guilty of taking performance enhancing drugs and lying to the grand jury, spent six months behind bars for the latter, and had all her medals stripped.
Her life shattered.
What gives with the likes of Armstrong and Jones playing Russian roulette with their lives?
Surely there must have been times when they wondered when they were going to be tapped on the shoulder, when it was going to be all over.
Which begs another question. Is drug-taking in sport always for performance enhancing, or do the takers just like feeling high, or a bit of both?
I’m blowed if I know, but thankfully it’s minimal in Australia.
Two West Coast AFL players, Chris Mainwaring and Ben Cousins, were headline grabbers a few years ago – Mainwaring died at 41 from an overdose of cocaine.
But in the main, the four football codes, track, swimming, cricket, tennis, and golf are free of drug-takers.
Is it the Australian sporting culture, or better administrators. It’s probably shared.
There’s such a strong anti-doping campaigner in AOC boss John Coates, and long may that be the case.
I wonder what would have happened had Coates been an American, a nation that has proved so slack over the years when it comes to drug-taking in sport.
So slack and so secretive. Had they been more transparent, it begs another question about Flo-Jo – Florence Griffith Joyner who smashed the women’s 100 and 200 with Usain Bolt-like world records that still stand after 24 years.
Flo-Jo died at 38.
Carl Lewis is another with a question mark over his head.
Sadly, there are far too many medicos around the world who enjoy beating the drug-testers, it’s a lucrative ‘game’ for them.
The best we can hope for is the drug-testers bridge the gap on the medicos.
Better still get in front, and stay there.
Sport deserves better.
If you have to cheat, why compete?