Thursday really was a sad day for sports.
If performance-enhancing drugs weren’t all over as it was, Thursday’s news made it much worse.
For several years of my last newspaper stop, I worked with a gal who was a major cycling fan. When I say major, I mean take my obsession of baseball, multiply it by 15 and you might be close.
She knew everything there was to know about the sport.
The riders. Their teams. Who they ride with. Strategy. Seriously, she knew it all. Her and her sister would argue about the race as it went on.
She used words like “domestiques” and “peleton” like they were everyday words.
Being her desk was in front of mine, I often gave her a bunch of crap. Those of us in the sports department would really goad her. I often referred to the race as the “Tour de Bore.”
Deep down, I realized what these athletes went through to compete and win something like the Tour de France, or any cycling race for that matter. It’s not easy. And it seemed every year that some big name would get whacked with a drug charge.
So, of course, we’d note that when goading our co-worker. In reality, it always bothered me when these riders would be busted. I say that about any athlete in sports because it’s never a good thing. Ever.
Thursday, seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong said he wasn’t going to battle charges being brought against him by the US Anti-Doping Agency. That is leading to a lifetime ban and being stripped of his seven Tour titles. He noted in a story run by USA Today that he’d fight sanctions, however. Armstrong is saying the USADA doesn’t have the power to sanction him the way it is doing.
It doesn’t matter how this ends, it’s still a sad day.
No matter what you thought or think about Lance Armstrong, one thing he’s always stood by is that there’s been no tests that show he was doped up during the races. So if he did dope up, apparently it got covered well. But, he always had the suspicion.
He’s been battling these charges and accusations for a long time. And, well, I guess I could understand getting to a point where enough is enough. But I think I’d brawl until I was in the grave. After all, he’s only 40.
His story was amazing. He overcame cancer to — again — win the most grueling cycling race in the world. And for a generation, he actually made people care about that race. I’d be willing to bet that cycling — at least in the States — never was or has been as popular as when Armstrong raced.
Alas, if this means Armstrong doped, many won’t be shocked.
This generation of athletes — from the early 90s (and likely before) to now — has been under this cloud for a while. From baseball, football and Olympic sports to cycling and whatever else.
Even now, with extended testing, people still get caught. See Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon in baseball this year.
But every time I see it, I can only remember when Alex Rodriguez admitted to using ‘roids. I never was a huge fan of A-Rod, but I always was amazed with how great he was. Arguably, he was the greatest player of this generation.
When he admitted using, I was assigned a story to talk to some local baseball people — meaning those connected with the local minor league team I covered at that time.
One call went to former manager Andy Barkett, who shocked me by admitting that he had used (though his major league career lasted fewer than 20 games).
The second went to the former owner of the local team, Sam Nader, then in his late 80s. His one quote to me was one of the best ones I’ve ever got and it is something I always remember and truly resonates with this whole generation of players.
“I’m still a hero worshipper and I don’t like to have my heroes tarnished,” he said.
Growing up, I idolized Pete Rose.
It broke my heart when he was banned from baseball for life. It burns me more that I might never be able to see him enter the Hall of Fame.
Thankfully, for now, none of my “favorites” have been tagged with the performance-enhancing drugs stuff. I hope it won’t happen.
Truthfully, though, who is safe?
This whole generation is under suspicion. Even those already enshrined in Hall of Fames, in whatever sport. So many names. So many people. All that for sports.
Again, no matter what you think of Lance Armstrong, this day is sad. Take away the racing and what he’s done with his foundation and his quest to cure cancer, he’s done some amazing things. His legacy outside of cycling is going to be hard to smear, no matter what people would like to do. And believe me, there’s people who will try and bury him every which way possible.
That’s the saddest part of all this. The things he’s done outside of cycling dwarf what he did on a bike, I think. That is what makes this even sadder. Heck with a lifetime ban or stripping of Tour de France victories.
What this does is re-enforce what I’ve often thought — nobody is safe from this. If you were part of this generation of athletes, suspicion will continue through a lifetime.
That, too, is sad. Because in the end, we the fans are the ones who lose here.
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