Some Thoughts on Doping
Although somewhat indirectly,doping in sports seems to have made its way into the media again this week. Between the Baseball Writers Association of America failing to elect a single new member to Cooperstown and the reports that Lance Armstrong will admit to doping in an interview with Oprah, this is a topic that has been unavoidable this week.
So what have we learned from this week? Will dopers be forever held out of Cooperstown? Highly unlikely. Bonds and McGuire will likely get in at some point as new blood trickles into the BBWAA. Will Lance Armstrong be forgiven? Also highly unlikely. What we have learned is the true level of ridiculous that the debate on doping has reached.
The Hall of Fame snub has been hashed out by sports writers all week and I do not intend to speak much on the topic in this post. All I will say is that there are a handful of people, specifically Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell that deserve to be in the Hall but still are not. Instead of assuring that these deserving players, who were never linked in any way to doping, were elected, many writers chose to send in blank ballots as a form of protest. Because of this, no player managed to get the necessary 75% to be enshrined in Copperstown’s hallowed halls. This “protest” was misguided, uninformed and moronic. Yes you kept Bonds out of the Hall for another year but at the expense of Tim Raines, a guy who by all metrics deserves to be there. It is a shame that Raines is not in the Hall. Arguably more of a shame than if Bonds had been elected.
Bonds, Clemens and McGuire will be elected in to the Hall at some point. I have little to no doubt about it. All three have the stats to support a Hall election. Bonds and Clemens had Hall of Fame numbers before they were linked to doping and McGuire, aside from having the numbers, drew fans to the game at a time when people were at best indifferent. People criticize now but did anyone complain in 98 when McGuire was breaking the record? Or did we all start paying attention to baseball again?
Now lets turn to Armstrong. I want to preface this by saying that I do not fault Armstrong for doping. The fact that they cannot award those 7 Tour de France titles to someone else because the runners up have also been banned for doping proves that everyone in cycling was doping. Lance was just better at it than everyone else. At the end of the day, is not the purpose of competition to reward those who are the best at what they do? Whether you like it or not, doping was part of cycling during those years and still is. By stripping Lance of his titles we are not saying that we disprove of doping and that doping will not be tolerated in sports. We are punishing someone for being the best at their sport.
Those arguments aside, Lance admitting to doping at this point is possibly just as, if not more ludicrous than the witch hunt that has taken place over the past decade. If you were going to admit to doping, why now? Why not 7 years ago when there was still a chance that you could redeem yourself in the public and sporting eye? Why not before all the lawsuits an investigations? Why would you subject yourself to that level of scrutiny just to give up the fight and then admit to what you had so adamantly denied for years? Even if he admits to doping and apologizes it is too late. He won’t be given back all the titles that he lost. The public will not forgive and forget. He won’t be reinstated into the sport. He won’t get his endorsements back and his reputation will not be repaired overnight.
At the end of the day, nothing has changed. Alleged dopers will end up in the Hall and Lance will still be shunned from his sport. The BBWAA has not taken a productive step in the right direction and Lance, if anything will lose even more respect and further damage his reputation. We need to accept that doping was a part of our sports culture for years, accept that people have cheated in the past and will continue to cheat, and move forward.