Tuesday, August 01, 2006

When Heroes Aren't Heroic

Following the end of the Tour de France, I posted a piece on the Human Spirit in Sports that praised Tiger Woods' effort at the British Open and Floyd Landis' comeback at the Tour.

It pains me to read today that Landis' positive test for testosterone levels over the legal limit appears to be due to exogenous steroids, not a result of his naturally high hormone levels as he has claimed since testing positive.

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I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt and had defended him in conversations at work. But I feared the reality would come out the way it has. He doped. He got caught.

There are many who say that everyone dopes at the highest levels of many sports and only the dumb ones get caught. I have said this, and for the most part, I think it's true. And it saddens me that I believe that.

When I was growing up watching the Dodgers or the Steelers on television, the players on those teams were super heroes. Steve Garvey was a god, not a womanizer; Terry Bradshaw was my hero, not a drunk and a wife beater. I wanted to be those guys.

We seldom heard about those things as kids back then. We weren't so bombarded with media as kids are today. Now when an athlete commits a crime or tests positive for drugs, kids know about it. They might even see it as a badge of honor. How else do you explain the popularity of Allen Iverson?

Some days, I wish I still had the innocence I once had. I wish kids could grow up with that innocence now the way I was fortunate to do.

When Landis won that 17th stage with such a brave and powerful performance on the bike, I really wanted it to be heart and passion and courage that pushed him up those mountains, not an injection of testosterone.

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