Sports, in many cases, are used as a tool by adults to teach children the values of hard work and fair play. Unfortunately, sometimes the same adults who are supposedly enforcing these rules, are the individuals who act as children when it comes to the compliance of them. In recent years, a multitude of professional athletes have been caught cheating in their respective sports for using steroids and blood doping. From perennial home-run hitters Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds, to track star and Olympic gold medalist Marion Jones, it seems that no sport is immune from its fair share of athletes using performance enhancing drugs. Cycling is the sport that has seemingly had the most athletes accused of doping in recent history.
No case of doping has had more of an impact on its sport, and debatably the world of sports, than the one against cycling great Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner and Olympic bronze medalist was stripped of his achievements and received a lifetime ban from cycling after he announced that he would not fight charges brought by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). The agency accused Armstrong of using performance enhancing drugs during his unprecedented seven Tour de France titles. In an official statement, Armstrong remarked, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ For me, that time is now. I have been dealing with claims that I cheated … since 1999 … The toll this has taken on my family, and my work for our foundation and on me leads me to where I am today – finished with this nonsense.”
As Armstrong stated, the ripple effects of these accusations undoubtedly will have an effect on the public perception on Armstrong himself, but also on his foundation as well. The Livestrong Foundation was created by the cyclist after his recovery from testicular cancer. The foundation states that they “find new ways to raise awareness, increase outreach and facilitate collaboration in an effort to improve the cancer experience.” The foundation has helped those with cancer and in the fight for cancer research since its inception in 1997. The long term effects on the foundation can only be seen as time plays itself out. Nike, Armstrong and the foundation’s main sponsor, said they are standing by their partnership with the group. But this does not mean the company will not begin to distance themselves from Armstrong as time goes by. If more details arise proving that Armstrong did undoubtedly use performance enhancing drugs, the effects on the Livestrong foundation will be devastating.
The debate on this topic now takes an uncomfortable turn toward one’s personal morals. If Armstrong actually did what the USADA has accused him of doing, then he should lose his titles, unfortunately at what expense of the foundation? There is a need in our society for both positive role models as well as groups who fight for a cause, but which is more important? Whatever your stance on this situation, neither party wins. In the end, the hope is that one day fans can watch inspiring stories of athletes overcoming huge obstacles and the underdogs winning it all without having to question whether the athletes’ play is because of their hard work or if it is due to the affect of a substance that should never have been introduced to the games we love in the first place.