When a giant falls, the reverberations can be felt for miles. Lance Armstrong was considered a sporting legend, with a legacy akin to that of Michael Jordan, Roger Federer, or what now may be a more suitable comparison, Tiger Woods.
Amidst the onslaught of evidence leading to the exposure of the most intricate drugs scandal in the history of sport, Armstrong has been stripped of titles, sponsorships and various accolades. With seven Tour de France titles officially erased from Armstrong’s CV, a gaping void has been torn into the history of the most prestigious event in cycling. The disgracing of Armstrong has not only left cycling bereft of its main icon, but has punched a hole into the definition of the term ‘sporting champion’.
Completely tarnished, Armstrong’s legacy seems to take a new blow each day. With the International Olympic Committee opening investigations against Armstrong, the disgraced cyclist will most likely lose the Olympic bronze medal he won in Sydney 2000. Additionally, the hit that the wider sporting world has taken in the aftermath of his fall cannot be understated.
Of course the Olympic stage is not foreign to the use of performance enhancing drugs; in fact, the magic of the Games seems to be wearing thin after a catalogue of scandals. With the wounds of ‘dopers’ Justin Gatlin, Nadzeya Ostapchuk and Marion Jones still fresh, the legitimacy of almost all athletes is under the strictest scrutiny. This doubt, spreading to other sports, has been catalyzed by the Armstrong scandal and has left individuals involved and fans uncertain of the authenticity of professionals.
The exposure of the scandal has impressed the importance of the need for random drug tests on a more frequent basis. Both Andy Murray and Roger Federer have questioned the thoroughness of tennis’ anti-doping program, reiterating concerns that have plagued cycling for generations.
The need to tackle doping and catch drug abusers sooner needs to be advocated strongly by every authority in order to ensure history does not continue to repeat itself. Trust is a luxury the sporting world can no longer afford, and needs to be replaced by a system of regular testing. Worryingly, the International Tennis Federation spends a feeble $1.5million annually on its anti-doping program, according to its head of science and technical department in 2010.
Unlike cycling, doping in tennis has never been endemic. In both sports, extraordinary strength and stamina is required, with tennis becoming increasingly about physicality; how hard a player can drive the ball over grueling 5 set displays.
With the grand slams offering some of the biggest prize awards to winners in sport including £1,150,000 for the Wimbledon singles winner, the incentive to gain an advantage to win must be tempting. Yet only 21 out-of-competition blood tests occurred across the whole of the professional game in 2011.
When drug abusers are caught, the severity of Armstrong’s punishments should act didactically. In too many instances have athletes been allowed to return to the sport they have damaged. A life long ban and a disgracing from sport may not solve the problems of doping altogether, yet it will provide a sterner deterrent against an exhausting cycle of drug abusers.