The Lance Armstrong saga seems to be finally drawing to a close. After months of equivocating, the former cyclist’s deception has finally been exposed. In a sport plagued by doping, Armstrong was simply the best — at doping. In a world of cheaters he was king.
This realization has led many people to question if doping is actually cheating. Does it grant an unfair advantage or does it simply level the playing field? I’ll argue that doping is indeed cheating and considering it to be anything else sends a dangerous message to the athletes of the future.
As children, professional athletes learn the same lessons as the rest of us: Cheating is bad, cheating is something that is never justifiable and if you know someone who is cheating you should say something. Yet these lessons seem to be forgotten by professional athletes. Those who are caught cheating frequently claim that “everyone else was doing it, and in order to stay competitive I had to as well.”
Like a herd of animals, these athletes simply follow in the footsteps of cheaters, blaming their poor decisions on what is basically peer pressure. What they seem to have forgotten is breaking the rules is always cheating, regardless of whether other competitors are doing it or not.
It has become apparent that the entire U.S. Postal Service Team was engaged in doping, all under the leadership of Armstrong, who bullied and threatened teammates into joining his doping program. Each member of that team knew what they were doing was against the rules, and the only reason they were doing it was to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors. Doping is always cheating and there can be no justification for it.
Doping by Armstrong and other professional athletes did more than just end their respective careers; it also damaged the future of their sports. By cheating, athletes tarnish the accomplishments that made them so incredible.
Armstrong was an undisputed juggernaut of cycling, winning title after title. Now that his cheating has been exposed, though, those wins have been stripped away, their validity destroyed by the drugs he took.
For anyone who loves the sport of cycling, this is a huge disappointment. An icon of the sport, a man who stood for perseverance and toughness, was revealed to be nothing more than a fraud. Cyclists who looked up to Armstrong as youths now have to come to grips with the fact a supposed champion is nothing of the sort. Rather than serve as a role model, Armstrong has destroyed the faith that riders have put into the sport.
The responsibility for changing the doping culture rests with two groups. The athletes themselves must take the primary role. They have allowed doping, simply turning a blind eye to its presence at best, and demanding doping from teammates at worst. There must be pressure from within their own elite ranks to change this reality.
Of course, pressure must come from the outside as well. Cycling leagues and anti-doping organizations must fulfill their duties with greater consistency, punishing — and if necessary, banning — athletes from their sport.
These measures are in the best interests of both groups, because allowing the doping culture to continue will bring nothing but harm to cycling.
James Cameron is a freshman International Studies major from Boston, Mass. He is a staff writer for TheNews-Letter.