Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Several years back I used to write a monthly sports column for Suite101.com. For a good while after I moved on to other things my collection of articles remained archived there. Eventually the archive was eliminated. Quite a few of my articles were picked up by other outlets so can still be found online, but many of them vanished for good. The majority of these pieces were time sensitive, pertinent to a particular event. But a number of them are relatively timeless because the world of sports, much like the world at large, often operates in a cyclical manner. Yesterday’s news revisits today’s front pages and then fades away only to return again…and again…and again. When I wrote about the relationship between steroids and high profile athletes I did not bother to name names. Sports fans will recognize who I’m referencing in most if not all of the cases. But the names are basically interchangeable, as are the sets of circumstances. The primary difference between them is that some were caught red handed and with others there is a sliver of room for doubt. Ben Johnson, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong, Manny Pacquiao, Alex Rodriguez. There have been many others. There will be many others. Tests to catch them will grow increasingly sophisticated. New concoctions will be created to temporarily stay one step ahead of officials. Some athletes will be caught and proven guilty. Some will be caught and acquitted due to lack of sufficient proof. Some will never be officially accused, merely speculated about. Some we’ll remain clueless about. Round and round it goes. And so I’m reprinting IMAGINE here at A Line A Day because even though I wrote it way back in the day, I may as well have written it ten minutes ago…or ten years down the line.

Imagine if you are a fanatic about professional wrestling. You watch with baited breath as your heroes do battle against their arch enemies. The combatants are bigger than life. There is something quite theatrical about their outlandish personalities, costumes, and storylines. The bad guys are so obviously bad, the good guys somehow overcome tremendous adversity and stacked odds to prevail time and time again. Yet nothing about this strikes you as suspicious, much less preposterous. Perhaps you are still too young and naive to be jaded. That will come later. Imagine if you are a true believer in the muscle bound men who defy gravity and logic, only to be told one day that it's staged, a scripted carnival act choreographed for your entertainment. Imagine how you would feel when this deception was brought to light. Imagine the sense of betrayal, the end of your innocence.

If that scenario doesn't disturb you, then try any of the following on for size, because unlike professional wrestling, there has never been any question that these sports are supposed to be for real.

Imagine if you found out that your favorite boxers were on the take, their bouts rigged from the outset by gangsters who control the sport you love. Imagine discovering that your favorite shoeless ballplayer and his teammates were bribed to throw the World Series for fast cash. Imagine if the player you most admired due to his grit and hustle was a gambling addict who bet on his own team's games when he became a manager.

If you can imagine all of that without your heart breaking, then perhaps we should move beyond history and on to current events. Imagine if players in the sport you love are growing bigger, faster, stronger, and better by the day. Imagine if they easily demolish records that had seemed set in stone and capable of withstanding the test of time. Imagine idolizing these men who take to the field of play with their bats and gloves and perform one amazing feat after another. Imagine if you believe you are living in a time when several of the greatest men ever to play the game are simultaneously demonstrating their out-of-this-world abilities, surpassing the milestones of the game's legends. Imagine how exciting this would be. Imagine how riveted and uplifted you would be. Imagine how lucky you would consider yourself to be. Imagine the wonderment that would fill your soul at the crack of the bat and soaring of the ball into the blue yonder.

Imagine now if those many blasts over the right, left, and centerfield fences turn out to have been artificially produced.

Imagine if the world's fastest couple was merely the world's most doped up couple, running not so much on adrenalin as on pharmaceuticals. Imagine if the accusations turn out to be true, that you've been deceived, that the pursuit of excellence you admired was chemically assisted. Imagine if those world records and Olympic medals are tainted.

Imagine if it all turned out to be a mirage, nothing but smoke and mirrors. Imagine if you invested your hopes, lived vicariously through the exploits of these men and women, were crushed by their losses and exhilarated by their victories, only to learn that it is nothing but a drug induced fabrication. Imagine if you come to realize that you have not been witnessing the glorious acts of extraordinary athletes, but rather, the remarkable results of steroid use. Imagine if your role models are proven to be cheaters and liars. Imagine if you no longer feel you can trust your eyes. Imagine if you decide to stop admiring and aspiring to be like these athletes, because they have proven themselves to be little more than con artists. How would you feel?


Points of views other than my own fence straddling one: This article is cynical about intents of the media rather than athletes regarding steroid accusations.

This writer thinks it likely that Usain Bolt (but not Michael Phelps) was the doping star of 2012 Summer Olympics.

Question of the day: Should Pro sports leagues just give up and allow PEDs?

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