When most of us think of bicycle-riding, we are filled with the nostalgic, yet terrifying, memories of that afternoon when we first learned to ride—the day asphalt became a new, terrorizing entity. We were excessively attired in extra-strength nylon and reinforced plastic to withstand a head-on collision with a dump truck. You robotically sauntered up to the ferocious, steel deathtrap of a shiny, 14-inch Huffy. Strapped on your helmet, tightened your elbow and knee pads, took a deep breath, pushed off, and started pedaling while pleading, “Please, don’t let go, Daddy!!” Naturally, he did. Splat!! Over time, we forgave our fathers, lost some of the protective gear, and became the adventurous, daring, “look-ma-no-hands!” bicycle rider. The dangers of bicycle riding subsided ….or did they?
Most of us gave up the bicycle once two wheels and a bell took a backseat to four wheels and an engine. However, some pedal into a bicycle-riding career, then mature into “cycling,” and ride competitively. Amidst the competitive nature of sports, some athletes seek an edge over their competition by “doping” or unlawfully using prescription/synthetic drugs – in other words, they cheat. Remember your mom’s forewarning: “cheaters never win”? Lance Armstrong became a household name after seven consecutive Tour de France titles, a public battle with testicular cancer, and through Livestrong®—a foundation working to inspire and empower those affected by the deadly disease.
The US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) recently investigated Armstrong and the US Postal Service Pro-Cycling Team (USPS Team) and uncovered a more than decade-long doping conspiracy. In the Reasoned Decision by the USADA, they are accused of using erythropoietin (EPO), a peptide hormone that acts on the bone marrow to increase production of red blood cells. In the wake of the report, Armstrong has been stripped of all titles, banned from cycling, and forced to step-down as chairman of Livestrong®. So maybe your mom was right.
The career-ending scandal leaves many Armstrong supporters ashamed, angry, and heartbroken—reminding us of the over-arching consequences from using performance-enhancing drugs, such as steroids and EPO. Not only do performance enhancers insult the dynamic of team sports and the competition of a natural adversary, skilled through hard work and dedication, but they have serious side effects to your health. The World Anti-Doping Agency highlights some of the hazards of performance enhancers on athletes in “Dangers of Doping.”
Being a public figure and an inspiration to millions for over a decade, Lance Armstrong was idolized by fans young and old. Let Armstrong’s doping scandal be a warning to anyone considering doping to achieve his or her competitive edge. Bottom-line: doping is cheating—your team, your fans, your sport, and yourself.