Alex Rodriguez’s 211-game ban has done far more than just stun the world of Major League Baseball. As one of the biggest stars of the game and the country’s highest-paid player, A-Rod’s demise will lead to fresh questions about the credibility of sport, especially in the wake of recent drug allegations against some of the world’s most famous athletes.
Just last month, athletics once again had its integrity called into question by the failed drugs tests of two of its leading lights, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell. Drug scandals are nothing new to a sport that has always been dogged by doping, but the revelations forced Usain Bolt – the face of athletics – into making a statement declaring he was clean.
Only a year after London hosted one of the most dazzling Olympics in the Games’ history, its legacy is being reduced to rubble by doubts over its competitors.
Combine all this with Lance Armstrong’s momentous admission last year that he had used banned substances in all of his Tour De France victories, and sport has a serious problem.
It may be one of the biggest industries in the world, and it may generate billions of dollars. But while these stories continue – which they will, while the spotlight remains on - there is a very real danger that sport’s respectability could be slowly but surely ebbing away.
Admittedly, the majority of sportsmen and athletes are clean and there are many sports that encounter few, if any, problems with banned substances.
A-Rod is not the only name linked to the case. 12 others have also been suspended, but the New York Yankees’ third baseman is certainly the most high profile. Surely the most damaging concern for the baseball authorities must be that no matter how hard a sport may try collectively to eradicate doping, there will always be new ways of getting through tests undetected, and drugs scandals will go on and on long into the future. Athletics has taught the world that.
In the last five years, match-fixing has been the thorn in cricket’s flesh that it has fought eagerly to tweeze out. Doping – or even match-fixing, because essentially, that’s what it is – has eaten away at the public’s trust for over twenty-five years, yet stadiums are still filled. For the Yankees, that must provide a reassuring thought in a series of tempestuous, sleepless nights.
Even as the technologies that detect these substances advance, unfortunately so do new ways of masking the casket. Despite years of tests, Lance Armstrong’s lies were only uncovered due to his teammates’ confessions.
Baseball has suffered a setback. It will recover, but it may take a dose of honesty from those within the game to restore its pride and gain America’s trust once again.
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