Lance Armstrong, shamed ex-Tour de France winner and all-around snake, is on a public relations campaign to save what is left of his name.
Armstrong, who finally admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs, blood doping and a whole amusement park full of bad behavior, recently appeared in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey where he admitted to most of his malfeasances with the contrition of a lion dining on an elk.
Or as my mother would say, “He wasn’t sorry; he was sorry he got caught.”
Armstrong is just another in the disturbingly long line of so-called role models and celebrities who have adopted the theory that it’s better to screw up and ask for forgiveness than it is to do the right thing in the first place.
Knowing we are a forgiving nation, people like Armstrong take advantage of our nature, but I am drawing the line. We can forgive, but we cannot forget and most importantly, we need to stop rewarding these people after deplorable behavior, just because they admitted it.
Whether they are admitted steroid user Alex Rodriguez, celebrity amateur-porn star Kim Kardashian or shamed New York governor Eliot Spitzer, too many people are given the ability to knowingly run afoul of society’s conventions and get rewarded as brave or courageous for saying sorry after they are caught.
It’s time we called a cheater a cheater. I don’t care if Armstrong is sorry. That’s between him and his maker. I do care that he made life hell for his accusers both publicly and litigiously.
I don’t care if A-Rod only used steroids a little. He still cheated and he still gets paid more than me and everyone I’ve ever met combined.
To put this in perspective, imagine if a man cheated on his wife, but he said he only did it for a little while. Do you think everything would still be cool? Of course it wouldn’t.
Oh how I long for the days of recreational drug use in sports. There was a time when the biggest scandal was that Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden were using cocaine. It’s actually a miracle that those two were as good as they were considering that the only performance cocaine enhances is the ability to talk non-stop for hours.
Today, a coke scandal would probably be welcomed with the joy of a father welcoming his newborn child. This is because people can understand and forgive someone wanting to be high or drunk. They can’t identify with cheaters.
How does the sports world overcome this? Simple. No tolerance.
If someone gets caught or admits to using a performance-enhancing drug, he or she should be banned from the sport, without pay. Case closed. In the extremely unlikely event that someone took a drug that contained a banned substance unknowingly; an independent arbitrator could conduct the investigation, and act accordingly.
At least the punishment fits the crime in that instance. If a man got caught cheating at a casino, do you think he’d be allowed back in or banned? If an employee got caught stealing from the company, would he be slapped on the wrist or fired?
To show how backwards Major League Baseball is, Pete Rose, the all-time hits leader, is banned from baseball for betting on the sport when he was a manager. He can’t get in the Hall of Fame and can’t perform any baseball-related duties. His nickname was Charlie Hustle because of how ferociously he played the game, but baseball, worried about its image, could not stand for a gambler tarnishing the integrity of the sport.
Well, what about the cheaters? Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and a whole generation of players were reported steroid users, but they are still eligible for the Hall of Fame.
These players take the risk because the punishments are minimal and the rewards are massive. A player can use steroids, inflate his stats, get a big contract, get caught cheating and never be held accountable financially for his decision.
Not to say this is just a baseball issue or a cycling issue. The other sports just haven’t been outed yet. To think that there hasn’t been a major steroid scandal in football in recent memory is almost scary. Same goes for hockey, basketball, swimming and almost any other sport that can be named. We’ve become a nation that is OK with cheating because everyone else is doing it.
If I remember correctly, one of the first lessons I ever learned was to not ever do something because someone else was doing it. As a child, it’s very difficult to follow. As an adult, I know better.
That’s not to say that speeding on the highway with the flow of traffic isn’t breaking the rules. It is, but it’s more out of consideration. We have established penalties for speeding and we weigh the risk vs. the reward. It’s OK to speed because the ticket doesn’t result in a suspended license. But what if it did? Would going with the flow of traffic be an excuse at that point?
Our professional athletes earn our hard-earned dollars. A-Rod’s ability to hit a ball or Lance Armstrong’s ability to ride a bike is absolutely meaningless in the day-to-day events of most of the world. It’s time we stopped rewarding their bad behavior and gave the honest players the kudos they deserve.
Now, we just need to find some honest players.