Why Can’t Lance Armstrong Just Admit He Used Performance Enhancing Drugs?

Watching 60 Minutes this weekend, I caught an interview with two former teammates of Lance Armstrong admit to using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) and that they witnessed Lance Armstrong also using them as well.  Not surprising, these teammates testified to these facts recently.

Lance has categorically denied ever using PEDs and every test he has ever taken has been clean.  That has not stopped allegations from repeatedly popping up, 8 different times, since 2004.  Teammates, friends and competitors have all eluded to or admitted to knowing Lance used PEDs.  So why can’t Lance just come clean?

My theory on why he keeps denying the truth is that it would implicate much more than himself.  It is clear that the international cycling community may be just as complicit in ignoring and covering up the test results as anyone.  Interest in cycling was waning in the late 90s, but in 1999 Lance Armstrong started to change that when he won his first Tour de France and his story about his battle with cancer came out.  For most Americans, the only cycling race they know is the Tour de France, so it was a great story, and as he realed off 7 consecutive Tour de France titles.

It was in cycling’s best interest to keep Lance in the lead.  I believe that as fellow competitors tried to keep up with Lance they learned the only way was with PEDs and that because international cycling officials allowed Lance to do it, that they would be allowed too.  I find it nearly impossible to believe everyone was cheating around Lance, they could not keep up with him, and he remained clean.  What biological condition or bionic condition gives him that ability?

Armstrong has done so much for the sport of cycling, for cancer awareness through his Livestrong foundation, but his greatest contribution maybe his ability to lie to himself that he used PEDs.  He has done a better job avoiding getting caught than anyone in modern sports history.

Perhaps it is time for the all drug cycling competitons like SNL suggested a few years ago.


Baseball lets Manny Ramirez Down

Manny Ramirez retired on Friday after he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.  He would have faced a 100 game suspension, but at 38 years of age, sitting out the entire season was not in the cards for him.  This is not the first positive test for Manny, he was suspended 50 games in 2009 when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Everyone by now knows the baseball history of performance enhancing drugs.  When I was in the clubhouse of the Baltimore Orioles in 1999, steroids were openly discussed and on display in lockers.  The blind eye that baseball turned to the players taking these illegal substances has apparently not kept players from stopping this behavior now that baseball is paying attention.  For veteran ballplayers it pays to take the risk that Manny did.  Manny Ramirez signs a one year agreement, takes PEDs, hopes he does not get caught and he earns one more year’s worth of paychecks.

I am confident Manny is not the only one doing this either.  I also am confident baseball is not the only sport where this happens.  Whether it’s an athlete returning from injury, or an aging athlete wanting to stay competitive they are going to look for an edge.

The odd thing about this situation is that for the professional leagues, continuing to turn a blind eye still prevails for certain players.  These former superstars hanging on are great for leagues, for the television networks and endorsements.  See Brett Farve, Barry Bonds, Ray Lewis, and many others (not to say these players used PEDs, but these are veteran athletes who have hung on for an extraordinary long time).

I think Manny will be a foot note in history in baseball.  I am skeptical that he will be voted into the hall of fame.  Baseball let down Manny Ramirez, they did not take seriously the issues of PEDs years ago, and the way they reward players and the amount of money they reward players creates a culture in which players want to take a chance at cheating.