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Welcome to my blog where I will post commentary on issues ranging from fiction to public policy. Tucked away in the Idea Boxes are “how to” tips on a variety of projects that have become part of our family’s culture over the years. I hope you’ll find some useful ideas there. My blog will take you through the fantastic journey of writing fiction, as well as the decisions I will be making about publication of my first novel One Summer in Arkansas. Thanks for your interest.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lance Armstrong and Doping

Coming on the heels of several Major League Baseball suspensions, Lance Armstrong’s tacit admission to use of performance enhancing drugs during his spectacular cycling career has led to a massive media condemnation of cheaters.

Use of terms like “cheaters” and “cheating” appears to be favored by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which probably hired the same marketing experts who train our political candidates—experts in the use of inflammatory words to frame issues in a certain light in the public consciousness.

It’s hard to argue against the effort by professional sports organizations to do what they can to eliminate use of these steroids and hormones, which have serious health implications for the athletes later in life.  But the bitterness and acrimony towards these “cheaters” who are trying to get ahead at risk of their health strikes me as over the top.

In baseball, many of the players who have tested positive are young men from extremely poor families in Latin America who are risking everything for a chance to make enough money to help their families achieve some security.  And, it’s not as if these athletes haven’t continued to work hard to improve their natural talent.

The idea of a level playing field is a fantasy.  Most exceptional athletes had the good luck to be born with physical capabilities that permit them to excel at sports, probably including naturally high levels of testosterone.  We don’t penalize basketball players, after all, for their unfair advantage of being born tall.  Or the son of a professional athlete whose dad can afford to buy a batting cage for the backyard when the boy turns six.

What if we decided to level the playing field for college admission by prohibiting wealthy families from sending their kids to SAT prep classes or hiring consultants to work with them on their essays?

I’m not arguing against better and more frequent drug testing.  But I just don’t go along with subjecting these guys to public humiliation and shame for their bad judgment.

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3 comments:

  1. Well stated!! Guilty until proven innocent. This society sure loves to label people. The damage is done -- no way to fix it. It could happen to anyone.

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  2. It doesn't matter what rules you make, competitors in any arena will test their limits _ and rightly so. More power to Greg LeMonde and his funky handlebars, or the IBM programmers who beat Kasparov by programming Deep Blue to make a random mistake in order to rattle his self-confidence.
    But when there's a clear rule, agreed by all, and it's broken, you have to take action otherwise the game is rendered meaningless.
    The guys who were almost as good as Lance in other regards by the grace of God's lottery but weren't doping (assuming there were some who weren't) must really feel like chumps. They devoted years of their lives to a sport where the other guy had a secret weapon that was against the rules, and they never really had a fair chance. In legal terms there's no remedy for what they lost, but the public humiliation of cheaters _ at least in theory _ serves both to punish the cheater and deter future offenders.
    The desire to punish cheaters, it's part of our emotional feel for Justice, and it runs deep.

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