Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lance Armstrong and PEDs

In case you've been living under a rock the last few days, 11 cyclists that were members of Lance Armstrong's team confirmed that Lance Armstrong was doping during his seven Tour De France wins. I've seen some people comment the past couple of days that who cares if he used Performance Enhancing Drugs? Why does it matter? It's his body, he should be able to do what he wants to it.

In general, I agree Lance Armstrong is free to do whatever he wants to his body. However, once he starts competing against other people, what he puts into his body is an issue. Every cyclist in the world shouldn't be forced to take the same performance enhancing drugs Lance Armstrong took just to keep up with him; the possible long-term side effects are at best unknown and at worst very very dangerous. To expect others to keep up with a "cheater" isn't realistic, and it's the same reason MLB finally cracked down on Steroid use.

Now, Congress getting involved in the discussion was ridiculous. John McCain and company didn't ask the right questions when they had the MLB players in front of them, and they shouldn't have spent any of their time trying to get steroids out of professional baseball. It just shows how congressman are far more interested in getting a little publicity from the American Public rather than actually doing something useful for said public.

The issue with trying to stop performance enhancing drugs completely is that the science is always ahead of the testing. The people that can develop the kinds of undetectable steroids, such as BALCO about 15 years ago, are specifically trying to create drugs that can bypass the drug tests. The reason steroid use was so rampant in MLB for a decade was because BALCO was completely undetectable. Once the federal government raided the BALCO lab, they were able to see how it was made and, obviously create a new drug test that could show if someone was taking this new steroid.

If someone was able to create a "super-steroid" that was undetectable for almost a decade, it's not out of the question that other labs across the country are doing the same thing today. And while attributing PED use to a player without any evidence is probably unfair, I'd be legitimately surprised if Jose Bautista isn't taking the newest undetectable drug. It's just hard for me to believe someone goes from terrible at 28 to a monster home run hitter at 29 without any PEDs.

Baseball and cycling and all other competitive entities are doing a good thing by keeping PEDs banned, no doubt. But as long as there are millions and sometimes billions of dollars to be made by the creation of a PED, competitive sports leagues will not have the resources to prevent the labs from developing these drugs. Expecting the federal government to keep a watchful eye on these people is even more laughable.

Anyway, back to Lance.

Lance Armstrong cheated, but that's not what most people are so upset about. Andy Pettite admitted he used HGH illegally, and nobody cares. Several football players have tested positive for steroids, but I can't remember anyone other than Shawne Merriman off the top of my head. People will always remember Lance cheated not only because he's a star, but also because of how vehemently he denied ever doping. He pulled a Pete Rose. Everyone had a hunch Armstrong cheated; nobody had ever done what he did, and he was doing it (or some of it, at least) while battling Testicular Cancer. It was a motivational story to see a cancer survivor compete in one of the most physically grueling competitions in the world; unfortunately it wasn't completely natural.

That said, I need to make a point quickly: What Lance Armstrong accomplished is still amazing. His teammates admitted they were also doping with him; nobody was able to catch Lance, even the cheaters on his own team. But that doesn't change the fact that he cheated. Without the doping, it seems unlikely Lance Armstrong would have won nearly as many Tour De France titles. And the saddest part about that, is we'll simply never know.