Major League Baseball has listed more players under drug investigation, shortly after suspending Ryan Braun for the rest of the season. Record winning cyclist Lance Armstrong was hounded and brought down for drugging via coerced testimony without ever failed drug tests and now, high schools are debating the utility of testing for their athletes. This has become ridiculous. The athletic doping scene now resembles posturing Congressmen.
Top athletes were once held as heroes; the high ideals of ‘sportsmanship’ were assumed to adhere to the signature players as well as the game. Many sports figures did at least try to exemplify those standards. No more, as Wikipedia’s list of criminal players illustrates. While the retreating moral standards of society leave us unsurprised that a larger percentage of pro ‘sportsmen’ are thugs or thieves these days, the list of violators is also widely expanded by the hypocrisy of the performance enhancing drug racket.
Alcohol Prohibition was famously repealed because it both failed to prohibit and because it created a large criminal enterprise, just as today’s “War on Drugs” does. And Prohibition is a perfect parallel as well for the expensive and unsuccessful drug testing of athletes that has created a small industry that serves as cover for operators of sports while failing to prevent doping.
Prohibition couldn’t stop drinking, the War on Drugs hasn’t stop drugging and the anti-doping programs will never stop athletes from improving performances with chemicals and blood doping; there is simply too big a reward for too many people for flouting the systems. Churches and governments outlawed sex outside of marriage with a similar degree of success, for the same reasons.
I believe, and you may disagree if you prefer, that most athletes in sports where doping helps are in fact, dopers. I am reasonably certain about cycling. I believe that the doping starts at the career point where success is highly competitive and the goal is a sports career with the possibility of high earnings. And I believe it is nearly universal in sports where those conditions apply. It seems ridiculously naive to believe otherwise, but you are welcome to cling to that faith if it pleases you. My belief does not please me, but ignoring reality isn’t pleasing, either.
So, in pursuit of that willow-the-wisp called reality, it seems to me that we should stop the hypocrisy and drop all drug controls. We’ll save a lot of money, save a bunch of careers and maybe, restore honesty somewhat.
No, it won’t stop drugging but I’ll bet it won’t increase it much, either since everyone who needs it is, if my belief is correct, already using. It will also stop making a lot of top performers automatically into liars and thieves.
Lance Armstrong earned every dollar he was paid, beating his equally doped competitors; he won because he was the best. But he has been sacrificed to preserve a hypocrisy.
I leave you with the one sure way to know when the doping actually goes away: When the times start to drop, the jumps are lower and sports no longer pay off with big bucks. Until then, we’re only kidding ourselves…