Those with a particularly insensitive moral compass may feel comfortable calling it gaining a competitive edge. Traditionalists believe that an athletic competition should respect those who win because of talent, hard work and sweat; they call it cheating. In sports terminology, it’s referred to as doping, with many medical experts labeling it as drug abuse. Here are two of the biggest doping scandals in sports history that have left a pertinent mark.
The Soiled Cycling Legacy of a Media Darling
In 1995, Lance Armstrong raced in his first Tour de France. Of his own skill and talent, he managed to win one stage and earn 36th place overall. One year later his personal life took a dramatic turn towards potential tragedy. Armstrong was diagnosed with testicular cancer. He would begin to build his amiable world image by establishing the Lance Armstrong Foundation to fight cancers.
Respected by all sports fans across the world as a champion symbolic of human resilience, Armstrong would commence to dominate the most coveted racing title in cycling. Starting in 1999, Armstrong would smash records and win seven consecutive Tour de France titles. While there were whispers of suspected cheating as early as 2002, he always managed to stay one stage ahead of world cycling’s governing body.
In spite of a heartfelt public sympathy for Armstrong and his struggles as a human being, the fact is he broke the rules to gain a competitive advantage. What made this incident of sports doping so monumental was the scandalous denials and self-proclaimed innocence. With an estimated net worth of over $100 million dollars in 2012, it’s incredible to think that someone could take such a fall from grace with doping allegations. When the whole truth finally surfaced, it blackened Armstrong’s reputation and soiled his cycling achievements forever, making it one of the biggest sports doping scandals in history.
Beefed Up to Bash
Armstrong’s adamant denial of doping allegations and perception as a media darling powered his scandal into the public limelight. However, maybe the all-time single sports-wide doping scandal is one that will never be forgotten. The lingering effects of the PED scandal that rocked Major League Baseball still sends waves of repercussions across America’s game.
Media whispers of doping in baseball started in the 1980s, but league executives turned a deaf ear. Whatever was going on behind the scenes didn’t matter, since what was happening on the field was a thrilling chase for one of the most coveted records in all of sports. The one personal achievement that seemed almost unattainable was Henry Aaron’s 755 career home runs. The idea of catching this career total was deemed slightly more plausible to baseball purists, than surpassing the 61 long balls in a single season, which Roger Maris launched in 1961.
In all honesty, no one ever thought Maris would supplant the great Babe Ruth as the one-year home run marvel. To suggest a hitter might break 60 dingers again, usually earned a subtle chuckle. But, in the course of two seasons, one MLB slugger would do it not once, but twice; the second time pushing the new record to an unthinkable 70. In fact, two players broke it in the same 1998-storied season.
For the better of a decade, starting in 1988 – after a most inauspicious reference by a Washington Post sports writer – baseball would be under suspicion of doping, strong suspicion. However, the ticket booths at stadiums across the league were jammed with fans, lured by “the home run chase”. Team owners and baseball management couldn’t hear anything but the ring of cash registers. This sports doping scandal reached to the pinnacle of the baseball hierarchy with allegations the commissioner even ignored the truth.
Then, on August 22, 1998, the lid came off the jar; a jar of androstendedione found in Mark McGwire’s St. Louis Cardinals locker. Everyone thought his former Oakland teammate Jose Canseco was juiced, but when the rumors began to swirl about McGwire’s use of steroids, all of Major League Baseball began to squirm. US Senate hearings, tell-all books and criminal investigations into the infamous BALCO drug lab are all search news today, but the black eye that the doping scandal laid on America’s pastime may never fully heal.
Possibly the greatest cyclist in history and the chase for one of the most coveted personal records in all of sports were tainted by doping scandals. While there have been other allegations of athletes “gaining a competitive edge” through the use of illegal supplements, these two have left their mark on their sports like no other. Even someone who isn’t a trident sports fan knows something of these two biggest doping scandals in sports history.