Fallen hero

Fallen hero

Till a few days ago, Lance Armstrong was the ultimate sporting hero. An uncompromising athlete who fought tooth and nail against cancer before winning the gruelling Tour de France seven consecutive times.

It was an unprecedented feat, and rated by many as a never-to-be-repeated one. But then came the news of Armstrong dropping the fight against doping charges levelled against him by the United States Anti Doping Agency, and subsequently he was stripped of his seven Tour titles. For the outside world, Armstrong’s decision to pull out of his five-year-long struggle against USADA was equal to him accepting the guilt, while the sporting world and legion of his fans across the globe were left shattered.

But the news is not just about the crumbling of an icon. It reveals an unkind side of sports. Sportspersons who seek shortcuts to success might get away with it temporarily but it’s quite impossible to cover such practices and live under the limelights forever. Unfortunately, Armstrong has a number of fellow members in the club of drug offenders—from high profile names like Ben Johnson to a relatively anonymous Italian 50 km walk champion Alex Schwazer. Indians too figure in the list as we have recently heard the news of six quartermilers—many of them medal winners in the Asian and Commonwealth Games—getting banned for two years for using banned substances.

So, what make the athletes enter the illegal world of performance-enhancing drugs?
It’s quite naive to imagine that the athletes are unaware of the consequences of using drugs as the IAAF and WADA have been conducting massive awareness programmes around the world about the fallouts of exploring illegal means. It could only be one factor that prompts the athletes to tread the dangerous territory -- their desire to win at any cost. Perhaps, their ambition to be recognised as world champions is stronger than the fear about the possibility of getting caught by the authorities. They not only have cheated themselves but deprived other athletes a level playing field and spectators a chance to witness clean competition. The menace of doping will continue to haunt sports despite strong measures by the bigwigs, and the only cure is athletes cleansing their thought process and curb their craving to grab glory by any means. Armstrong’s fall will offer them a lead.

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