In the recent past there have been numerous accounts of professional athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. From Major League Baseball to professional cycling and Olympic track and field athletes, steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have dominated sports media for much of recent memory. With the Lance Armstrong interview airing tomorrow evening I feel like it is important to discuss performance-enhancing drugs and their position in professional sports.
I have had many conversations with friends and family members regarding this issue and it has become clear to me that there are two major views. First, and most obviously, is the argument that the athletes who have tested positive for PED’s or have admitted using them should not be considered as the greatest athletes in their sport because they cheated their way to success. The second view, and one that I personally believe is that while they did take PEDs, these athletes are still elite and the best at what they do. When you look at people like Barry Bonds, it is hard to ignore the fact that he got into the major leagues prior too taking PEDs. It is also hard for me to believe that raw talent had nothing to do with his success late in his career. PEDs helped Bonds break records that had stood for many years, and in that case I believe that there should be some sort of notation about his accomplishments. At the same time however, the truth is that a vast majority of players during Bond’s career were also using PEDs. Players like Mark McGuire and Roger Clemens were also dominating baseball at the time Bond’s was. So in a sense then, the playing field was leveled by PEDs. The same is true in the case of Lance Armstrong. From all the media coverage, it seems that all cyclist at the time of Armstrong’s dominance were also participating in Blood Doping. In my mind it seems that Armstrong was still competing at the highest level against men that were doing the same things he was doing. He was just doing those things at a higher level.
Another factor of the PED debate is the moral obligations professional athletes inherit by playing professional sports. While it is their job to preform at the highest possible level and win championships for the teams and sponsors, it is also their job to be positive role models to their fans. On this point I believe that PEDs are a negative influence on professional sports and sports in general. By taking PEDs, professional athletes are essentially condoning cheating to their followers. That being said, I still believe that because PEDs were widely used in numerous sports, the accomplishments of those who used should not be disregarded.
What are your opinions on PEDs? Does the fact that other athletes were using PEDs matter? Or is the social and moral obligation enough to say that these men should forever and always be branded as cheaters?