Lance Armstrong, baseball and the culture of ‘winning’
Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor. He won the Tour de France and turned America onto cycling a record 7 times. The man survived nearly fatal testicular cancer and fought the disease. He is also a drug cheat.
Baseball homerun king Barry Bonds said he never “knowingly” used steroids. Roger Clemens, who won the Cy Young award as the best pitcher in American baseball seven times, denies going on 'roids.
The duo should have easily won election to Baseball’s Hall of Fame, but the deep-seated belief they won while being juiced prompted many of the writers who would vote for the Hall to reject them as all-time greats in the game.
All 3 were hailed at the height of their success in the United States, whose sporting culture is not kind to those who place second or worse. The also-rans are called ‘losers’ or worse.
Armstrong’s fall is especially difficult to swallow.
The man is many things. He had that supreme arrogance of an athlete who knew he was the best. On the way up L’Alpe d-Huez in the 2001 Tour, he glanced back at rival Jan Ullrich and then took off up that steep switchback road. It was a classic image that imprinted itself on US cycling fans.
He poured himself into his cancer charity, further burnishing an already glittering image. The list includes the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, Padres Contra el Cancer, and US Doctors for Africa, among others.
The good and the bad that is Lance Armstrong is all of a piece. The man who cheated himself to the top of his brutal sport is the same man who devoted his time to all those charities.
Cycling as a sport is notoriously as dirty as weightlifting when it came to steroids. Armstrong was not the only drug cheat out there. Some 99% of the cyclists were on the stuff.
Bonds and Clemens are in the same tragic boat.
The two have had careers that would have enshrined them in the sport’s Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Both men can deny it all they want, but the popular perception is that they used steroids.
A court of law may have failed in finding them guilty of using performance-enhancing drugs, but the minds of most Americans are made up on their steroid use.
There is a lot at stake in big-time sports so much that the temptation to use anything to gain an edge is simply overwhelming. The ad endorsements for a superstar athlete can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. It can set you up for easy street.
It used to be you finish your professional sports career and then have to find another job. You have a degree from the college scholarship you got. If one is lucky, the house is paid for and the kids do not have to rack up debt on their college loans by the time you retire from playing ball.
Today, Michael Jordan is a virtual conglomerate built on his image of being the best basketball player all-time. Magic Johnson is a corporate tycoon who is now part of the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
When you have all that money going into sports, it would take a very strong athlete to say, "I will not go down that road." That is especially true in a culture that prizes winning above everything else.
It is a culture where sports and entertainment have converged and pays more to find out what is up with the Kardashians. On February 3, one will see that in the ultimate spectacle of American sports and entertainment.
They call it the Super Bowl. – Rappler.com