The Olympics are over and for the most part, were clean.
“Clean” as in only a few athletes were found to be using performance enhancing drugs.
Good thing, because cheating takes all the joy from the competition, and just builds more cynicism into not only the sports world, but about other institutions too, in a world where corruption and fraud are more the rule than the exception.
Sadly, for local baseball fans, the needle, so to speak, is more on the cynicism side than leaning toward clean. The San Francisco Giants announced Thursday that star player Melky Cabrera, who had become a fan favorite, was being suspended for the rest of the regular season for using PEDs.
Cabrera, who had earlier lied to reporters about his culpability, who had gotten wind there might be a positive drug test associated with the Giants’ star, on Wednesday acknowledged he was a juicer.
Which took much of the juice out of the Giants’ season and may have doomed their postseason hopes. For a team that sells out all its games and had sold untold dollars worth of merchandise connected to the popular “Melkman,” this is not only the kind of stunning development that washes away a season, but is also a slap in the face to fans who pay ever higher prices for tickets to games they want to believe are legitimate.
Not that fans aren’t forever forgiving. While baseball has been cursed by steroid use among star players, the Giants have already been through the tainted years and records put up by Barry Bonds, widely believed to be a steroid cheater as well. Bonds remains a popular figure for Giants fans.
It’s not a surprise that people cheat to gain an advantage — nor is all cheating related to PEDs. One of the best young players in the national scrabble tournament was recently kicked out for cheating — hiding valuable blank tiles.
And some of the cheats in the Olympics were not guilty of blood doping or taking drugs to increase their testosterone. A top Chinese badminton player quit the sport after her team was expelled for deliberately throwing matches.
The Olympic men’s 100-meter breaststroke winner Cameron van der Burgh admitted to cheating by taking illegal extra kicks, which gave him an advantage in speed.
“If you’re not doing it, you’re falling behind,” van der Burgh told an Australian newspaper. “It’s not obviously — shall we say — the moral thing to do, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my personal performance … for someone that is willing to do it and get away with it.”
The biggest drug scandal in the just completed London Games involved Belarusian shotput winner Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who was stripped of her gold medal after testing positive for illegal drugs.
Probably the most infamous recent Olympics’ cheaters were sprinters Marion Jones of the United States and Canada’s Ben Johnson. Both were stripped of gold medals after testing positive for or admitting use of PEDs.
Track and field along with professional cycling are sports long tainted by PED use — and so is baseball, even though fans seem forever forgiving of their favorite players’ dishonesty.
While testing has gotten stronger, swifter and more decisive, we have no illusion PEDs and other illegal boosts will somehow disappear, but maybe next time the cheaters will consider the consequences — to themselves, their teammates, the athletes who compete on natural abilities and the fans who make big-time sports possible.
“Every man did what was right in his own eyes.”