In a somewhat stunning turn of events, Lance Armstrong, seven-time "winner" of the coveted Tour De France bicycle race and cancer survivor conceded that he would no longer fight the efforts of the USADA to prove accusations of blood doping. While adamant that he never did any sort of drugs while competing, the USADA came back with no less than ten witnesses who offered to testify against Armstrong. To people who understand cycling, or most any sport nowadays, is it really a surprise that performance-enhancing drugs are a part of professional sports?
We hear about the issue all year around, every year, in almost every sport. Melky Cabrera, pro baseball player, tests positive for testosterone. Debbie Dunn, U.S. Olympic sprinter, withdraws after testing positive for drugs. NFL tight end Fred Davis in 2011. Stephen Alfred, cycling. Lyle Alzado, football. The list goes on and on.
There's no arguing that professional sports is (and has been) big business. With the economy on the downside, people are flocking to sports as a distraction to life's daily struggles. Pro athletes both see and feel this surge, and leverage it as motivation to be better at what they do, knowing that their salaries can only get bigger as their performance increases.
So what would be, what I'd consider the "ultimate solution" for doping in professional sports?
I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is an avid cyclist. As I lamented over the "good old days" when athletes performed clean, I imagined old black and white films and photos of Tour de France cyclists and pro football players, with their heavy bicycles having just one gear, and their rickety leather helmets which "passed" as protection back in the day. I thought about the pure strength and will-to-win that drove these athletes to do great and admirable things for their sport -- all without drugs.
My thought was this -- for every sport that needs it, have two leagues; a "doped" league, and a "clean" one. What this does is to provide spectators and team owners alike a "true" read of the level of athletes competing. One would never have to wonder whether or not a team or competitor won because of drugs. The clean league would have its champions, and so would the doped league. If, for nothing else, the idea of enjoying clean athletes once again could bring honor back to many of today's sporting events.
As much as I feel for Lance, I am as tired as many people are about the ongoing doping scandals that plague sports today. Whether you agree or not, I say let me watch a clean competitor use his blood, sweat, and tears for a "real" win -- one that isn't driven by profit and fame, but rather by honor... drug free.