23 thoughts on “Cheats, Liars…and Heroes to Us All

  1. Mike Kennedy says:

    Well done. Athletes aren’t heroes, anyway. I’m a sports nut, but let’s be real. A natural talent to run faster than most others or throw more accurately or hit a golf ball better doesn’t mean anything more than that.

    You lucked out with great genes or you practiced to the point of obsession (read Geoff Colvin’s book “Talent Is Overrated) or both.

    That’s it. Period. It doesn’t affirm that you are a good or bad person; nor does it mean you can do much of anything else.

    I couldn’t care less if someone cheated in a bike race and got away with it, but if a person lies under oath, it should be punished, regardless the matter.

    Witness one William Jefferson Clinton.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      Just off the cuff here, but our admiration for athletic achievement has a history at least to the ancient Greeks, in its combination of artistry, strength, speed, coordination, mind over matter. Heroism? Think about it. Of all the tens of thousands of kids playing basketball on play grounds and gyms all over the world there was one Michael Jordan. One Sandy Koufax. One Jesse Owens. Their accomplishment does inspire the best within us, we appreciate their mastery and some of us vicariously live through it.
      If anyone was ever an example of better living through chemistry Barry Bonds has to be the poster boy. A dazzling player to begin with, have you see what he achieved when aided by technology? Staggering performance. The appeal of the chemicals is undeniable and became for the more mediocre athlete a necessary means of survival in his profession.

      1. Well, that’s exactly the point. Cheating through chemistry robs athletic competition of its physical purety…the poetry, if you will, of strength and coordination and skills hard-won through training. Yes, natural ability is huge…as are the differences between world-class athletes, where the margins of victory shrink to the vanishing point. Topping off one’s talent and training with just a smidge of magic elixir can get you to the finish line first…but it voids the achievement.

  2. Dennis Lang says:

    I’m sure no one in the history of this subject has attempted to make a case for the legal,regulated use of chemical enhancements among athletes (because it would be a stupid argument). But…. Is it any different than having the advantage of the most advanced equipment in excercise, or nutrition supplements, or modern mood stabilizers, anti-allergens, anything that otherwise enhances ones’ well-being? I recall Peter Kramer’s book from the early days of Prozak and the conjecture–those that were on the drug had the advantage in life over those that weren’t.
    The chemicals are a fact of life… and Clemens won–what?–seven Cy Young Awards and was a force into his forties.

    1. I think comparisons between performance enhancing drugs and good nutrition or superior training facitlities, etc. is a false equivalency. Yes, somebody has to find that a certain drug–say one that interacts with the endocrine system to unfairly advantage one competitor over another when all things are equal–should be banned. Additional considerations could include the health consequences of unrestricted use. But it’s just not that hard. Decide what’s okay, what is not, and make the rules clear to everyone. Anyone who can understand the infield fly rule or the tuck rule or any of the myriad complexities and subtle regulations in any sport can surely keep track of what drugs–most of which are also illegal without a prescription–cannot be used.

  3. Mike Kennedy says:

    The shame is, I don’t think that using chemical substances altered Roger Clemens performance. You don’t get accuracy from taking chemicals. Was he able to bulk up to throw a couple miles an hour faster than he would have otherwise? Maybe.

    But there are plenty of guys who are half his size who throw nearly as hard.

    Nolan Ryan was a force longer than Clemens — no accusation of chemicals there. In addition, he kicked Robin Ventura’s ass at nearly twice his age, when the young buck decided to challenge the old timer and took several punches to the noggin. Still one of my favorite baseball highlights.

    1. Dennis Lang says:

      True MK–And a similar argument used in the case of Bonds and hitters, that no drug can improve the hand/eye coordination necessary to hit a 90 mph slider. Still, the numbers those batters put up on steroids are astonishing. Nonetheless, likely contributes to more nuanced muscle recovery and endurance in the instance of pitchers, but another 2 mph on the top end could make a significant difference in performance.

      1. For Clemens, the advantage was the insulation from injury and the normal ravages of time…the chemically induced ability to remain as he was at a younger age.

        For Bonds, it was about the bat speed and power that resulted from a massive addition of muscle. And anybody who doesn’t understand that adding the strength needed to swing a bat faster can improve a batting average has never faced a 95 mph fastball.

    1. Caster Semenya is easy…she’s one of the few athletes in the world whose gender has been rigorously established. She is a woman and is cleared to compete as such.

      People get unnecessarily tied up in knots over issues like this. Usually an equitable answer can be had, though in Semenya’s case the ruling was handled clumsily and with less than adequate regard for her privacy.

      Arguing that Semenya has an unfair advantage because she has masculine characteristics is like saying that I’m a great dancer because I’m in touch with my feminine side. It’s all irrelevant. She’s fast and I’m pure rythym.

      1. PM says:

        Sure she has been cleared to compete as a woman, but is she a woman? those are two different questions.

        Frankly, it seems rather obvious that she is not a woman–but also not a man.

        The ruling was handled clumsily because the South African authorities hid the information from the international authorities and from Caster, who knew nothing at all about it until it hit the press.

  4. Nice how we cut our athletes down to size for their reputed sins, but choose to ignore the sins of wall street…is it because there is no betrayal of trust there?

    1. Seriously? On which planet have the sins of Wall Street been ignored? I believe they’ve been extensively and quite publicly documented. If you missed it, try Googling any of the thousands of stories written on the subject, or reading any of the many bestselling books that have looked deep under the slime-covered rock that is Wall Street.

      It’s just that we’re not actually interested in seeing these problems corrected…or at least are less interested in that than in seeing our 401Ks get back to where they were.

      1. WS = “It’s just that we’re not actually interested in seeing these problems corrected…or at least are less interested in that than in seeing our 401Ks get back….”

        So you got no pleasure from Armstrong and Contrador racing? But this thing about 401ks is more pleasurable…it is remarkably the same to me. Both Paulson who raked in billions while crashing the world, and Armstrong/Contrador who made mere millions (shared among teams of course) broke the rules of their worlds. Tell me who did the most damage, the athleres or the hedge funds?

  5. I missed the part where I compared bicycle racing with Wall Street…so forgive me for not tracking here. One has nothing to do with the other.

    I also never claimed to have not enjoyed seeing Armstrong and Contador in action; on the contrary, I am a longtime huge fan of cycling. Naturally, that makes my disappointment in the both of them–and the growing conviction that the whole sport is irredeemably dirty–that much more intense.

    1. PM says:

      I don’t really follow cycling much, so fill me in on something that I am curious about–Greg LeMond.

      How does he come out of all of this? Reputation intact? Reputation soiled?

    2. Okay William, so my commentary to your postings should be restricted to the precise nature of the subject of your posting. Should it not be allowed to discuss the dozens of other strength and endurance related sports wherein doping and steriod abuse ran rampant? Should it also be limited to agreeing with your glee or disappointment in how the sport of cycling is purging itself of its winners? Should it also limit itself to modern cycling, or as PM has commented, is it allowed to discuss Lemond…can it go back to the brit who died during le tour doing that decade’s version of doping?

      Or…is this a blog, where related commentary is up to the commentors and not the authors? My point, however fractured given the nature of commenting on blogs…is that I find ZERO reason to bring down any celebrity sport stars, while people who do REAL damage to society get off scot free.

      But, let me know your rules, I’m just trying to understand the limits of commenting on your postings.

      1. I’m glad you asked. The rules are really simple, and there are only three:

        1. There’s no prior restraint. You can say anything you want about anything I post. This provision is absolute. Being snide and churlish will be duly noted, but it’s all allowed.

        2. However, if you imply that I said something I did not say, you will be called to account.

        3. Similarly, if you say something that is demonstrably false, you will be called on that, too.

        So…when you claimed, out of the blue, that I was complaining about cheating in bicycle racing while ignoring cheating on Wall Street, you were completely within your rights under Rule One. But you violated Rules Two and Three. (An elaboration: I suspect what you really meant was that the sins of Wall Street have not been punished or corrected, which is true enough. But they have not been “ignored.” This is not a technicality. Precision in language is everything.)

        Fortunately, this is blogging, not cycling. There’s no penalty. Or, to look at it even more generously, you’re batting .333. Solid!

  6. Actually I’m batting .667. I did not imply that you said something you did not say. I pointed out that you did not say anything about a related topic that would have been more important to our world.

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