What a wild week it’s been in the bizarre world of sports and drugs and the athletes who take them – or have allegedly taken them, I should say.
First, there was last week’s news that Lance Armstrong announced that would no longer fight the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s never-ending charges against him that he had used performance-enhancing drugs.
While Armstrong maintains that his decision to stop fighting the allegations against him is not an admission of guilt, his decision means he will be stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, his 2000 Olympic bronze medal and basically any other award he’s received since removing his training wheels some 38 (or so) years ago. Maybe the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency should decree that Armstrong cannot be any closer than 50 feet to a bicycle of any type, including those without gears.
For Armstrong, who’s never failed a single one of the more than 500 drug tests he has been forced to take, the Anti-Doping Agency’s unrelenting investigation was just too much to handle any longer.
“There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Armstrong said of his decision. “For me, that time is now.”
Armstrong also told The New York Times that he’s not going to contest the charges because it has taken a toll on his family and his work. He continued to deny ever doping and called the case against him “an unconstitutional witch hunt.”
Perhaps by design, Armstrong’s decision leaves his legacy in a bit of a grey area. Has he ever been proven guilty of any wrongdoing? No. Did he ever fail a single test? No. Did he just give up the fight against doping allegations? Yes. So what will be Lance Armstrong’s legacy?
According to the Anti-Doping Agency, Armstrong is a doper, and always has been.
“It’s a sad day for all of us who love sport and our athletic heroes,” Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-Doping Agency, told The Times. “It’s yet another heartbreaking example of how the win-at-all-costs culture, if left unchecked, will overtake fair, safe and honest competition.”
According to Armstrong, he’s always been clean and nothing so far has proven otherwise.
“Regardless of what Travis Tygart says, there is zero physical evidence to support his outlandish and heinous claims,” Armstrong said. “The only physical evidence here is the hundreds of controls I have passed with flying colors.”
I don’t pretend to know a thing about cycling and probably never will. Do I think Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs at some point? I’d say yes. Do I think most pro cyclists have used at some point or another? I’d say yes. Does Armstrong’s decision to use drugs change my view of him? Not at all.
He will always be the guy in yellow who not only won an unprecedented seven straight Tour de Frances, beat testicular cancer, won the love of Sheryl Crow (for a while), and decided to make Colorado a part-time home. Oh yeah, he’s also raised a hell of a lot of money for cancer research. I will always think of him as one of the greatest of his time, no matter what the Anti-Doping Agency says.
And frankly, I’m kind of pissed off at the Anti-Doping Agency. What the hell are these guys being paid to do? Talk about dopes. Lance Armstrong has complied with every one of this organization’s testing requests, and they have never, never drawn a positive result. If he’s so guilty, why isn’t this organization finding him guilty? Where’s the positive test? It can’t be that hard to come up with, if he really did dope. The Anti-Doping agency is partially funded with taxpayer funds. If you ask me, its funding should be dropped immediately. Why test if you can’t rely on your tests in the first place? Talk about a waste. Anyway, I digress.
For some (like the Doping Agency), Armstrong is forever guilty, without ever having been proven guilty of doping. Like it or not, that’s how this is all ending with him. He’s joining a long list of athletes with asterisks behind their names, for doping. He’s decided to not fight the fight any longer, and that’s fine.
While the Lance Armstrong doping circus moved through the national media, another story was unfolding, on quite another front, as everybody’s favorite elder pitcher Roger Clemens, fresh off an acquittal, came back on the mound – and could now be headed to the Houston Astros to pitch, if the team will have him.
On Saturday, the 50-year-old Clemens pitched three-and-a-third scoreless innings for the Sugar Land Skeeters, an independent team located near Houston. Of course, the ever-sly Clemens says he’s not planning some sort of Major League Baseball comeback, but why in the world would a man with Clemens’ stature be pitching for the Skeeters? The only viable answer is a Major League Baseball comeback, which is something Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is open to.
Of course, all this comes after Clemens was acquitted last June on charges that he lied when he told members of Congress that he’s never used steroids. So why play after being acquitted?
Clemens is due to be on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot this year, so if he does play for a major league team this year, it will knock off that ballot list for another year. Maybe, just maybe, Clemens believes he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer and that he’s probably got a better chance of winning the honors five years from now, after all this steroids talk settles a bit. Sometimes where there’s smoke there’s fire, I guess.
Here we have one sports legend who’s giving up a fight to secure his legacy in the record books next to another sports legend who can’t give up the fight to secure a positive legacy.
If I had to choose between one of the two, I’ll take Lance Armstrong’s legacy any day. He doesn’t seem as desperate to protect his legacy as Clemens. Clemens has got to be desperate. I mean, the Skeeters? Really, Roger?
Perhaps ol’ Rog needs to take some advice from Armstrong with this one.
“Enough is enough.”