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Sport

Of sporting heroes and drug use

ON THE SPORTING EDGE

PAUL REID

Thursday, January 17, 2013    

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LATER today the world will hear the details of the long-awaited admission by disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong of his use of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) in the first of a two-part broadcast on American television.

Armstrong, who had dominated professional road cycling for over a decade -- winning an amazing seven Tour de France titles -- is the latest person to be added to what is becoming a long list of athletes who have been caught cheating in an effort to win not just medals, but millions of dollars and their share of the media glare.

Years ago former NBA star Charles Barkley, who is never afraid to voice his opinion, stated that athletes should not be role models and was summarily criticised for saying so from several quarters.

Today, Barkley looks like a Biblical prophet as more sports stars fall after their dishonesty has been uncovered --sometimes years later -- and they have benefitted in many ways from cheating.

Last week, the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame voters rejected one of the best classes of players ever, and for the first time no one was elected to the hall despite they being among the best to ever play the game.

All but one of the candidates, some of whom were on the ballot for the first time, and some from previous years, have been tainted by rampant steroid abuse in the 1990s.

Like Armstrong and track and field athlete Marion Jones, none of them ever failed a drug test and have vehemently denied any drug use.

For more than a decade Armstrong denied ever using drugs to help him win one of the most gruelling sporting events on the globe seven times.

That was until a few months ago when his world started crumbling around him as more and more evidence piled up against him. Former teammates came out and spoke of what is now being described as the "most sophisticated doping regime ever".

Last week on the first instalment of 60 Minutes - Sports on American cable channel Showtime, head of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) Travis Tygart detailed a long laundry list of indiscretions by Armstrong including threats to those who were speaking out against him and attempted monetary gifts that amounted to bribes.

But Armstrong was so big, his influence was immense, and Tygart said he even had US Congressional help in trying to shut down USADA.

One has to wonder what role did the US media play in the creation of this monster and in their effort to be the best at everything, at whatever cost?

With the US media quick to insinuate drug use by athletes from other countries, yes including Jamaicans, how could they have missed the obvious signs that Armstrong must have been a walking laboratory of synthetic drugs?

It is no secret that professional road cycling is one of the most drug-infested sport in the world, and for one man who finished in the high 20th position before getting treated for cancer and the removal of one testicle should come back and dominate the event to that extent with his US Postal team must have at least raised a red flag.

Of course there were the isolated voices here and there including that of the first American to win the event Greg Lemond, but they were drowned out by the cacophony of noise that hailed every successive win by Armstrong.

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