Three weeks ago I was sitting in an Austin, Texas coffee shop owned by one of the most infamous modern-day American athletes. Looking around at the cycling paraphernalia on the walls, the overabundance of the color yellow, and a seeming fascination with the postal service, Juan Pelota's was a coffee shop with a skeleton in the closet- one that was finally confirmed a few weeks later on national TV to none other than Oprah Winfrey.
Cycling's doping shakedown has opened many people's eyes to the extreme extent few will go to cheat and deceive. And the sad truth is that doping in any sport, hurts all sports. Once "superhuman" performances are tainted by cheating in any form, all performances begin to be questioned. The faults and mistakes of a few, hurts the reputation and honest work of many. Running is no exception, having it's own disgraced members, even those continuing to compete after suspension. While the system for testing is getting better, it cannot catch all cheaters, as revealed in the cycling scandal, cheaters are always one step ahead of the testers. The major step we must take is to ban, not suspend, convicted cheaters. Taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) not only helps athletes compete at a higher level, it allows cheaters to train at a higher level. By increasing the amount of training one can handle naturally, cheaters can make more physical adaptions than previously possible, and consequently, they can race "clean" at a higher level long after the PEDs have left their bodies. I say "clean" because with in-competition testing, even "dirty" athletes could have all PEDs out of their system at a race in order to pass a test. It is this reason that convicted drug cheats should be banned for life from competitive sports. One and done. Athletes that have taken PEDs are able to train at a higher level than previously possible, placing them at an uneven level even after the drugs are long out of their system. Drugs ruin the creditability of sport and allowing known cheats to return to competition only diminishes the hard work and sacrifices of the honest athlete.
So instead of talking about those few who decide to cheat and destroy the culture of sport, lets pay tribute to the honest, hard working athletes out there. A cheater may reach redemption as a person and in life, but we should ban them from returning to sport. With such harsh penalties, the dark cloud of drug speculation surrounding incredible results can diminish and honest athletes can receive the unquestioned accolades they deserve.
Until next time,