So Lance Armstrong's a drug-cheat. But in modern sport, should that even matter?
At the outset, I’d like to congratulate Lance Armstrong. He’s achieved a feat more staggering, and more impossible than all those wins at the Tour De France (French for “If this were a car race, it wouldn’t take three f****ng weeks”).
He’s managed to become the first person in the history of Earth to suicide-bomb his own cancer-survivor halo. If you fight (and beat) terrible maladies like cancer, hepatitis, or that Himesh song that’s been stuck in your head for six days, people tend to cut you some slack in the judgment department, and rightly so.
But Armstrong’s managed to blow it all, because this week he admitted to something we’ve all suspected for a while; cycling-shorts look odd in a way that suggests nobody loved you as a child. He did however also admit to using performance-enhancers throughout his career, backed up by the argument that he only took the drugs because everyone else did. He admitted this in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, whose first response to his confession was “DO YOU PEOPLE STILL TAKE THE DRUGS WITH YOUR HANDS? HOW MAGICAL!”
This admission has shocked the world, and I have no idea why. Every year, scores of men in odd clothing voluntarily choose to spend 21 days cycling 3,200 kilometers, all for a yellow jacket. If you agree to something like that, it’s safe to assume you’re already tripping on some combination of antiseptic detergent, distilled adrenalin and Eau De Road-Runner. If you really want a yellow jacket that bad, just go to Ed Hardy like everyone else.
As a result of this scandal, Armstrong’s lost his titles, his sponsors, and his credibility. On the bright side, the name of his book is still true (It’s Not About The Bike), he got to meet Oprah Winfrey, and he’ll probably be invited to Bigg Boss next year.
(I also find it weird that France would take away Armstrong’s titles when you consider that one of their own, Asterix the Gaul, pretty much invented doping.) But if we leave Armstrong out of this for a second, this entire kerfuffle raises a larger question; why don’t people use the word “Kerfuffle” more often? I also have another question; is it time to just let athletes use performance enhancers if they want?
Consider some of the most popular arguments used against doping. The most common one is that doping’s just not fair to your competitors. Okay, so it’s not fair. But it’s also not fair that Manchester City can spend untold amounts of money because they’re being bankrolled by a guy whose country has so much oil in it that it may as well be a Tarla Dalal recipe.
It’s not fair that Michael Phelps has Size 14 flippers feet while the average Indian swimmer can’t even swim in 14 feet. And it’s not fair that the BCCI can steamroll the cricket association of a country like Zimbabwe just because their contribution to the cricket economy is, according to one survey, “Six Zimbabwean GDPs.”
Another argument is that performance-enhancers are harmful. Lance Armstrong did them for almost a decade, and he seems pretty side-effects-free. I watched for signs of physical and mental damage during the interview, but not once did he lean over and lick Oprah’s eye.
Not once did he refer to his Livestrong wristband as “My purple rhinoceros friend over here”, and not once did he turn green and save the Earth from an invading alien force. Also is a performance-enhancer really that much more harmful than say a cricketing schedule that has players on the run for 250 out of 365 days?
Another argument is that it just wouldn’t be in the spirit of sport. With footballers making hundreds of thousands of dollars a week, TV rights worth Fifteen Zimbabwean GDPs at stake, and Mahesh Bhupathi being this close to punching Leander Paes right in his Rajdhani Express, it’s safe to say that the only spirit left in sport is the magnum of Moet you get at the end of a good season.
Another argument is that sport just wouldn’t be as much fun if everyone was on drugs. Okay, when was the last time you stopped yourself from enjoying a Megan Fox movie just because you once read that she’d maybe had some “work” done?
Here’s the thing; the sportsperson was once our ideal of the perfect human being; the ambitious, lion-hearted pinnacle of the human form. But that ideal was also representative of a global culture that valued excellence and hunger, a culture that valued a person’s ability to strive, in the face of every last odd stacked against him.
But as a culture, and a race, we’re not that anymore. All we value now, in every sphere of our life, is victory (and cheese pav bhaji), at any and all cost. So why then, should we crucify our sportspersons by holding them to an ideal we can’t even commit to in our own lives? Personally, I think we should cut Armstrong some slack. And use the word “kerfuffle” more.
Rohan Joshi is a writer and stand-up comedian who likes reading, films and people who do not use the SMS lingo. You can also contact him on www.facebook.com/therohanjoshi