The Nasty, Other Side of Doping
It really seems impossible to have a discussion about sports today without having a discussion about doping. It doesn’t matter if you want to discuss A-Rod, the Hall-of-Fame, the Olympics, or Lane Johnson, you ultimately end up back on the discussion of performance enhancing drugs. You end up discussing CBA’s, “B” samples, and testing procedures. You end up not discussing the sport, but cheating.
I do make a huge distinction between people who used legal performance enhancers at the time (Mark McGwire and Andro in the 90's) and illegal performance enhancers (Dee Gordon). I’m still a purist who believes you should be afforded the opportunity to do anything legal to help yourself. For me, this isn’t a morality issue. In fact, I’d put most of baseball’s dopers in the Hall-of-Fame (including Bonds and Clemens)- but I’d slap the “PED” label on their plaque. History should record the best players of the day- but with all historical accuracy.
However, there is another side to the doping issue that frankly puts dopers in a really negative light- the non-dopers. How can they possibly compete with already elite athletes that are now on PED’s? How much are we taking from them by putting them in competitions where they have unfair disadvantages? Is their hard work even worth it?
For some who play clean, they ultimately end up receiving the medals and awards they deserve. Adam Nelson, an American Shot Putter who participated in three Olympic Games, he initially won a Silver Medal at the 2004 games in Athens. After the champion was found to have used PED’s, they were stripped of their medal, and Nelson was awarded the Olympic Championship and Gold Medal- in 2016. You might say that all’s well that ends well, but how many endorsement dollars did Nelson not get as a Silver Medalist, that he would as a Gold Medalist? Given that major track meets pay appearance fees, how much bigger would his have been if he was an Olympic Champion? Sure, he got the medal in the end, but he lost out on all the recognition that goes with it.
There are many other Nelson’s. There’s Shirley Babashoff, who went to Montreal in 1976 hoping to match Mark Spitz’s amazing seven golds from Munich, but had to settle for four Silver Medals because the entire East German team was a sham. There’s all the women who finished behind Marion Jones in Olympic events, because Jones cheated. There’s all the men who won Tour de France’s- but after the fact because of Lance Armstrong.
Someone has to lose in every competition. To lose to an Olympic Champion fairly, to not be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft fairly, to not set the home run record fairly, is not a shameful thing. To lose because the competitor is an unnatural cheat is disappointing though. I’m all for seeking every legal advantage for an athlete- but surely we have to make those cheating feel more pain.