Monday, February 16, 2009

One Small Step for Armstrong

I hope that for once the stories aren't too good to be true. In light of all the recent stories about how Alex Rodriguez and so many other baseball players now realize that the 'vitamins' they were taking were in actuality, steroids; or the stories about 8-Gold-medal-winner Michael Phelps lighting up some pot at a college party, I'm hoping that the recent brouhaha surrounding cyclist (and 7-time Tour de France winner) Lance Armstrong's return to the racing circuit remains free of controversy.

That's not to say that Armstrong hasn't garnered or earned his own share of controversy in the years since his first Tour de France victory but I'm hoping that the old adage that 'it's too good to be true' doesn't turn out to be false. I would really like it to be true. The reason I am so hopeful is because I think it's time we get an athlete who keeps coming back through strength and determination and not because of illegal substances. Now not to take anything away from Michael Phelps, but because of his apparenty usage of recreational drugs, his image as a stellar athlete is somewhat tarnished. There's no denying that he has sacrificed a lot of his personal life to become the star that he was (and likely still is) at the Olympics but people will always wonder if smoking pot was the only thing he ever did wrong.

The recent announcement by so many of baseball's current crop of stars that they were using performance enhancing drugs doesn't come as a major surprise to me but it is distressing to see so many people suddenly come to the realization that what they were being injected with wasn't based solely on fruits and vegetables. Lance Armstrong has undergone such scrutiny too and so far he has come out clean. Despite having been diagnosed with cancer (and subsequently getting treatment and going into remission), Armstrong has never tested positive for illegal substances. And believe me, he's undergone a lot of scrutiny. I mean one Tour de France win could be charted up to good fortune and motivation, a second to experience, but when you get to around the 7th victory, people really begin to wonder how it's possible.

It's sad to think that we live in a society now where athletes need to prove themselves to have put in the hard work and effort to end up in their positions of victory. It doesn't matter that they spend countless years getting trained to perform at peak levels, we as a society are ready to chalk it up to illegal substances in a moment's notice because we apply ourselves as the benchmark by which to compare ourselves to these athletes. Now Armstrong who has taken a three and a half year break from cycling is starting his road back to racing by competing in the Tour of California in the near future. In one of the preliminary races held this past weekend he finished 10th overall.

Now considering he has been away from the sport for so long it's still a commendable feat but already rumors are circulating that he isn't as good as he was and that if suddenly he surges and wins the Tour de France again later this year then there is something suspect in it. I certainly hope that if he does win Armstrong once again comes out squeaky clean so that his reputation will remain unblemished (as far as his cycling career goes) because it's sad to think that there are no athletes anymore that achieve greatness without artificial help.



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