Everywhere you look athletes are getting stronger, faster and tougher. Swimmers break new records. Baseball players bash more home runs. Boxers pack bigger punches. And cyclists get faster and faster.
Some might say it is due to evolving technology—specialized swimsuits, better training methods, lighter bikes, etc. There is no doubt these things play a role, but there is a more important reason.
Devolving national character.
Yesterday, the International Cycling Union stripped seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong from all his titles and all 14 years of his racing history. It was a sad day in cycling and an even sadder day for people across America and the world. (Armstrong has not acknowledged guilt, but will not challenge the report’s findings.)
His was a fairy tale story that inspired untold thousands. He was a cancer survivor, an underdog cyclist that bounced back to win a record seven titles in a row and beat the French at their own game. He became the poster boy for overcoming incredible challenges. He racked up the most prestigious sponsors. His charity, Livestrong, grew to become one of the most successful in the world. He was the geeky kid that shaved his legs that grew up to become a world champion and rub shoulders with celebrities and date famous singers.
Now, as the Christian Science Monitor points out, the world knows Lance beat the Tour field the same way he beat cancer: using drugs.
In a shocking statement denouncing Lance, International Cycling Union President Pat McQuaid said “Lance Armstrong has no place in cycling,” and that he “deserves to be forgotten from cycling” history.
McQuaid said he was “sickened” by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (usada) investigation that provided “overwhelming” evidence that Lance was a serial drug-taker who helped orchestrate “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program” in this history of the sport. He is charged with using steroids, the blood booster epo and blood transfusions.
One of the reasons he was able to pull off the deception for so long is that apparently his whole team was in on it. They only came clean after federal subpoenas forced them to tell the truth or go to jail. “Their accounts of their past provide a shocking insight into … the expression to ‘win at all costs’ [which] was redefined in terms of deceit, intimidation, coercion and evasion,” said the International Cycling Agency.
The blow to the credibility of the sport is so huge that the Tour de France will not award Lance’s gold medals to the silver medalists. “We wish that there is no winner for this period,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. “For us, very clearly, the titles should remain blank. Effectively, we wish for these years to remain without winners.”
Drug usage is so widespread that there is little credibility that the other podium finishers were any cleaner.
A whopping 20 of the 21 cyclists to make it to the podium between 1999 and 2005 (the years Lance won gold) have since been tied to doping, according to the usada. Of the 45 riders to medal between 1996 and 2010, 36 have also since been “similarly tainted.”
The whole sport is stuffed with cheaters. It is sick from head to toe.
But it isn’t just cycling that is suffering.
As I write, the big sports headline today is that the San Diego Chargers were caught cheating during their recent loss to the Denver Broncos. They are accused of using a sticky substance to help hang on to the ball, a practice that has been banned since the 1980s, but evidently continues.
Sadly, everyone knows the cheating doesn’t get close to stopping there. It goes way beyond the major league sports, the underage gymnasts, and drugged up sprinters and weightlifters at the Olympics.
It is society as a whole that has this problem. Lance Armstrong and all the others that have fallen are just a sad reflection of America’s general degrading sense of morals.
This isn’t something that can be fixed with more and better testing. The only way to have clean sports is to have clean minds.
And the more you look, the more you see the effects of America’s moral degradation. Take the recent presidential debates. It is hard to stomach all the cheating on the truth. The lies, half-truths and accusations are hard to watch.
Today, it is a rare man that makes it to the top—in almost any field—without compromising his character.
Don’t underestimate the implications. This crisis of character goes well beyond sports. The impacts are national in scope. They begin with damaged families and result in broken economies and nations.
The devolving character of Americans is about to impact us far beyond embarrassing sporting scandals. ▪