Performance Enhancing Drugs, or PEDs, have injected the sports world with controversy. After Lance Armstrong admitted to doping throughout his inspiring career and no one was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year due to the candidates’ rumored steroid abuse, it has become increasingly difficult for fans to trust that their favorite athletes are earning their accolades honestly.
Despite PEDs being illegal in sports at all levels and warnings of how unhealthy they are for the body, athletes continue to turn to steroids to gain an edge over their competition.
In January, seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong admitted to doping throughout his career. Armstrong told Oprah in a televised interview that he didn’t believe he was cheating by taking PEDs because he was sure other cyclists were doing the same.
“I went and looked up the definition of cheating, and the definition is to gain an advantage on a rival or foe. I didn’t view it that way. I viewed it as a level playing field,” Armstrong told Oprah.
Regardless of Armstrong’s opinion of his deeds, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) have concluded that he is guilty and have stripped him of his Tour de France titles.
Doping is not unique to cycling—in fact there isn’t a sport that hasn’t been marred at the professional level by steroid abuse.
Major League Baseball is a sport where PEDs have changed the entire game. In the 1990s players like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa made headlines for their athletic feats, the records they set and rumors of their steroid use. This winter Bonds and Clemens made headlines again, but this time it was because they had been denied entrance into the Baseball Hall of Fame. For the first time since 1996, no players were voted into the Hall, largely due to lingering concerns that the players who were on the ballot had used PEDs during their athletic careers.
Many sports have implemented stricter rules and testing procedures to try and combat steroid use, but it is still an issue that plagues all sports.
In a recent article in Grantland, Bill Simmons raises the question of whether or not fans will be able to continue to give athletes the ‘benefit of the doubt’ anymore, or if any seemingly fantastic athletic achievement will always be characterized by the speculation that it may have been caused by steroid use. It’s a fair point—when your favorite athletes let you down, it’s easy to be cynical. Fans are going to be cynical for years to come, because according to Simmons, cheating in professional sports has become an epidemic.