January 2, 2008
Record book should note athletes who doped
Should sports record books reflect "doping" abuses?
A "yes" answer seems obvious, assuming that ethical principles constitute the foundation for legitimate competition at all levels. When the rules find an abuser, the individual should be the loser!
Cheating violates the integrity of sports, amateur and professional. Cheating taints reputations of individuals and organizations, risks both physical and mental health and complicates competition while compromising awards. Cheating fuels anxiety among those who play by the rules because they know they are likely to lose to cheaters. Even so, statistics - from drug-testing - confirm that most athletes play fairly. So nice folks don't necessarily finish last, unless competitors are taking illegal or immoral shortcuts. And the abusers seem to have made no exceptions.
Golf, historically, has considered its talent pool from the Professional Golfers Association as the very epitome of a game of integrity. However, today, even the PGA is discussing anti-doping regulations. When glitz replaces finesse and trash talk elbows out graciousness and class, problems are likely to follow.
Athletes, who "juice" themselves, sometimes say they do so to excite certain fans with faster running, longer hitting and other ever-more circus-like performances. Superhuman athletic feats create an atmosphere where agents and owners collaborate to reward those who can "raise the bar" to dizzying heights. The tradition of level playing fields and superior leadership behavior by athletes and owners seems to have devolved to money and immediate gratification - with increasing disregard for individual health or sports integrity.
For starters, note the name of the very process of cleaning up sports competition; it is called an "anti-doping" process. Knowing the harm that comes to those who invade the human body with these kinds of foreign substances to enhance performance begs the question: Do dopes take dope?
The Oxford American College Dictionary defines dope as a drug: taken illegally for recreational purposes, especially marijuana or heroin; given to a racehorse or greyhound to inhibit or enhance performance; given to an athlete to improve performance; and, the final insult, dope is "an informal term for a stupid person."
The use of dope is unwise and places those who do choose to ingest banned substances, for recreation or performance-enhancement purposes, in a very insulting category. Dope is for self-destructive human beings, animals bred for racing and for not-very-intelligent individuals.
Doping is dumb, short-sighted and illegal. Immediate gratification, including awards, rewards and recognition, is small payment for bodies and minds permanently damaged. The ending of doping, in sports activities and contemporary culture, is about a great deal more than sober proms, holiday parties and fairness of athletic competition. It is about the integrity of society.