July 27, 2007

Tour in Tatters: Team Ousts the Race Leader - New York Times

Tour in Tatters: Team Ousts the Race Leader - New York Times

The constant brouhaha around cyclists and drugs in the Tour de France will never disappear as long as one competitor chooses to take performance enhancing substances or other measures that violate the rules of the game. We see the same scenario in major league baseball, football, track and field, and I'm sure it's prevalent, if not so very public, in other professional and amateur sports, too. It seems the temptation to cheat to win is overpowering for many athletes .

I'm torn on the issue of drug enhancement for athletes. One side of me says that true athletic prowess and the centuries-old principle of 'let the best man/woman win in a fair contest ' must prevail. This is the true and honorable spirit of competitive sports. For that to occur, very tight enforcement of rules is essential because not all competitors have that principle uppermost in mind because their moral compass is disoriented. And some of those around them, e.g., coaches, trainers, physicians, sponsors, friends, etc., believe in a different principle...win at all costs and do it without getting caught violating the rules.

The other side of me says that because sports has become such a big money entertainment business where athletes are nothing more than skilled performers they should be able to make as much money as they can in their limited prime years. Because this attitude is fostered by the business of sports, then all participants should be able to choose to abuse their bodies and character as they will, with no restrictions on drugs or techniques for personal enhancement. Certainly the science of body chemistry and substances to alter body functions in favor of certain attributes has advanced by leaps and bounds from 'the old days.'Why shouldn't they take maximum advantage of scientific advances? After all, it's only a business and the players can choose to abuse themselves as they please...'let the best man or woman win'...with no limits on personal performance enhancement. The only rules and regulations would be those that define the game, not what substances athletes use to train or compete.

After considering both arguments with myself, I come down on the side that says a top athlete in any sport should also serve as a role model and inspiration for peers, those coming behind him/her, and especially for those youngsters who have athletic skills willing to work hard to have a shot at greatness. There is far more to athletics than winning. Character should be built in the process. I think young people should be inspired to excel without performance-enhancing drugs rather than be exposed to 'winners' embroiled in controversy about using illegal substances. If our youngsters are encouraged to evade the rules in order to win, we put another negative signal for them on life's scoreboard.
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