Sorry, society, but I just don’t buy your self righteous indignation about steroids. I don’t subscribe to this notion that a man’s athletic achievements are entirely null and void if it’s discovered — or even suspected — that he used “performance enhancers”. Lance Armstrong has already had his titles stripped (by a pseudo governmental agency which has apparently appointed itself God of All Sports) and now he’s going on Oprah to publicly eat crow while the peanut gallery looks on from its lofty moral platform. I read an article online referring to Armstrong as a “big dope”, the media throws around the word “cheater” without hesitation, and many people in the oh-so-ethically-pristine public have no problem calling the man everything from a “scumbag” to a “criminal”. Meanwhile baseball Hall of Fame voters decided they’d rather induct nobody into the Hall this year than allow Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the most accomplished athletes in the history of the sport, to get in.
Lance Armstrong overcomes cancer and wins the Tour de France seven times, Bonds hits 762 home runs and Clemens has a career ERA of 3.12 and pitches 46 shutouts and this all counts for NOTHING because they (allegedly) used steroids? Nothing? Even if they were competing against a field of similarly “enhanced” opponents? Even if they still devoted their lives and their bodies to the sport? From hero all the way down to zero with no stops in between, huh? Hey, here’s a challenge, try getting cancer and then winning the Tour de France. You can take as much steroids as you want. Think you can pull it off? Apparently it’s an absolutely unremarkable event to dominate a grueling sport for a decade if you have some extra testosterone coursing through your blood. I think you “cheat” in cycling if you use a motorcycle or slash your opponents tires before the race. “BUT STEROIDS ARE THE SAME THING!” No. No they aren’t, doctor. Not even close.
Let me be clear about this. I don’t like steroids. I don’t like drugs in general. I wouldn’t recommend using them. I wouldn’t let my kids use them. But I also wouldn’t put my kid on hallucinogens and speed to help him pass a math test. And now we’ve come to the crux of my point.
I don’t buy your outrage because this insistence on maintaining the “integrity” of sports doesn’t apply to ANY OTHER FACET OF SOCIETY. Especially not the classroom. Having trouble succeeding in class? Here, take some psychotropic drugs, junior. Having trouble recovering from intense workouts? IF YOU USE DRUGS YOU’RE A CROOK AND A DEMON. Um. What? I recently debated steroids with a guy I know. He is opposed to the practice and lamented those who would take “short cuts”. Fun fact about my friend: A couple of years ago he had “weight loss surgery”. Yes, you see he’s so opposed to “shortcuts” that he had rather have his FREAKING STOMACH STAPLED TOGETHER THAN GO FOR A JOG AND EAT A BAG OF BABY CARROTS. In a country overflowing with diet pills, fake breasts, gastric bypass surgeries, Ritalin, Adderall, cliff notes, Ab Lounges, and all other manner of half-ass quick fixes, we have the gall to get sanctimonious about guys who are so driven to succeed that they take hormone injections? At least they still ACHIEVE something. In a nation where our biggest health problems stem from eating Taco Bell and sitting too much, we have the audacity to call Lance Armstrong “lazy”? Sorry. I’m not buying it. We are the biggest collection of confused hypocrites that the world has ever seen. And we’ve gotten this way because we take our cues from the corporate media.
Sure, you might say Armstrong and Bonds and all of them are still “cheaters” because they broke the rules. Fine. They did break the rules. At least the rules that are written down on paper. They didn’t, however, break the far more important rule that nobody speaks but everybody in professional sports answers to: Get you owners and your sponsors PAID. And they didn’t break the number one rule that we, the audience, impose on them: ENTERTAIN ME. We want “story lines” and 182 game seasons and big hits and high jumps and fast play and if anyone interferes with those things we generally mock and deride them. How many of the anti-steroid saints are the same folks who complain about player safety regulations in the NFL? I bet there’s a substantial crossover in the two groups. Which is it, Johnny Public? Do you want “integrity” and “safety” in your athletic entertainment or do you want big bangs and big stunts? I guess we just want the sausage but we damn sure don’t want to see how it’s made. And if someone shows us we’ll shake our heads in disgust, offer a cliche sermon, and then go back to eating.
You could also point out that the men lied and THAT’S why they deserve to be sent to the stockades and spit upon by an unruly holy mob. Ok. Yes they lied. They shouldn’t have. But since when do we care about people lying? How many of us voted in the last election? Well there’s several million people that don’t hate liars THAT much. Lying is bad and it’s not made better by the sheer volume of deceit that we produce on a daily basis. But it does seem to indicate that we only care about honesty when we feel the itch to get up on the high horse and take it for a spin around the farm.
I wouldn’t do what Armstrong or Clemens did. Then again, I’m not nearly gifted or ambitious enough to get to the level where I’d even have to make that call. And neither are you.
But I know for sure that they aren’t any worse than many people in this country who have spent their whole lives “taking shortcuts”. And most of them don’t even have much to show for it. And maybe that’s why they hate Lance Armstrong so much.