Written by Erica Siddle. Media by Kelsey Kuethe.
Overcoming cancer, breaking records with seven championship titles at the Tour de France, and writing a series of inspirational memoirs all combine to form a pretty high platform for Lance Armstrong. These achievements, however, have become obsolete in light of his recent doping scandal. For almost a decade, Armstrong slipped under the radar of the World Anti-Doping Agency and used a variety of human enhancement pharmaceuticals to slingshot his cycling career into the limelight. With such a prestigious career behind him, the world was baffled when he abruptly announced he would cease fighting with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and plead guilty to all charges.
Unlike the fines we see in many other professional sports, the USADA takes punishment to new heights. Not only will Armstrong pay several fines, but he will be stripped of all seven championship titles, a bronze medal, and any money he has earned from his victories since 1998. Combine the losses with the increasing number of lawsuits being aimed his way and Armstrong’s pedestal has quickly given way beneath him. But should we be so quick to write Lance Armstrong out of athletic history? John Brenkus, author of The Perfection Point, discusses the limits of athletic performance and even feels compassion for athletes who have been pressured into using performance enhancing drugs. According to Brenkus, “People say, how could you ethically take steroids? I take the view, how couldn’t you? We’re not talking about whether you’re going to make $5,000 if you take them. We’re talking about a $100 million contract. You’re talking about being a good player or being the best player of all time.”
For some, it may not even be about being the best athlete. Today’s athlete may have difficulty keeping up with tomorrow’s, and how much longer will it be before humans hit their perfection point? What will happen to professional athletics then? Instead of writing athletes who have blurred the lines of athletic training out of history, perhaps we should study them. There is no way around the fact that cheating is fundamentally wrong; however, instead of rallying against those athletes, maybe it is time to study their methods.
Today, medical science continues to develop and alter over-the-counter and prescription drugs in an effort to make them safer for human consumption. With such a push for the betterment of everyday substances, how long will it be before scientists tackle steroids and other synthetic drugs? Once these drugs have been scientifically altered and FDA approved as “safe,” tomorrow’s professional athletes may just be pushing for an altercation of the current rules.
Andy Miah, director of the Creative Futures Institute at the University of the West of Scotland, writes, “Human bodies are not very well built for elite level sport. Too many athletes have their careers ended by injury. If technology can enhance our resilience, this would be a good thing and a sensible step towards making ourselves better than well.” But the ethical person screams about the illegality of the action. Miah simply states, “Then make it legal.”
It is high time the world stops bashing Armstrong for his doping and looks deeper into exactly how much it benefited his performance. Rather than looking at his trophies, scientists should be analyzing his blood. Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs for almost a decade and rather than experiencing a physical breakdown, he still appears to be in incredible shape. Instead of rallying against the athlete, fans and old competitors alike should be looking into the scientific benefits behind his drug use. My ethical side still screams, “CHEATER!” But it would be impossible for me say I’m not intrigued by the potential of scientific enhancement. So while Lance Armstrong may be revered as the cheating cyclist at the present, I doubt he will be written out of athletic history entirely. He may never ride in a Tour de France again, but his journey with the medical community is far from over.
For further reading on both John Brenkus and Andy Miah, check out these two links (excerpts from both were quoted in this article).