Cycling legend Lance Armstrong, winner of the Tour de France 7 times, and his teammates from the U.S. cycling team have been under investigation for illegal “doping.” They are accused of taking performance-enhancing drugs like amphetamines, anabolic steroids, or EPO (erythropoietin), a substance that boosts endurance by increasing the body’s oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
Using any of these substances can give people an unfair advantage and is considered cheating. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is looking into these allegations.
Although the investigation itself is closed to the public, Armstrong’s former teammate Floyd Landis, who won the Tour de France in 2006 and has admitted to drug use, recently wrote a tell-all book in which he describes drug use in the sport.
A Tarnished Legend
As the most successful member of the U.S. team, Lance Armstrong was a champion. His wins—and dramatic comeback after being diagnosed and successfully treated for cancer—made him a hero to people around the world. The damage that the doping allegations have done to Armstrong’s reputation and to the sport is major. Society has rules in place to ensure fairness. And so do most professional sports.
Parents teach their children to play by the rules, and we expect adults to live up to these standards, too. But the pressure to win—or to get good grades, or to complete a big assignment—can tempt any of us to bend or break the rules.
When the stakes are high, and the competition is intense, shortcuts to gain a competitive edge are tempting. But is it worth it in the end?—especially in the case of illegal substance use, which can do long-term damage not just to reputations, but to people’s brains and bodies.
What do you think: What does it mean to you to hear that someone you look up to might have been riding to victory not on talent, hard work, and focus alone, but by cheating? What does “playing fair” mean to you?