PEDs and Cognitive Dissonance

By Scott Cogar

Is anyone else tired of this story?

If you had a pulse and a television, it was hard to ignore the Lance Armstrong news from the past week. If somehow you just woke up from a coma, the news is that the 7 time Tour De France Champion and the face of the inspiring “Live Strong” fight against cancer admitted to doping during his astounding run in cycling.

Again, that’s just one example of a recent PED scandal in sports, but it certainly won’t be the last. When a prominent athlete comes under suspicion of doping, it’s near the top of every Sports Center broadcast and website story lineup for several days.

No matter how we feel about Lance as a person, or about how calculating and contrived his interview with Oprah may have seemed, I think it’s time we stop pretending that we are so morally appalled by the use of PEDs in sports.

The use of PEDs reflect the dirty underbelly of our society. Athletes are under tremendous pressure to perform. Across many sports, we have seen various examples of competitors who turn to steroids in order to “gain an edge”, to recover from injury, or just to keep up with the progressing athleticism of their sport.

Fans, endorsers, leagues all want bigger faster stronger athletes, but act blissfully unaware when it turns out that these superhuman behemoths may have had a little bit of help bulking up or recovering. Even Lance said that it would be humanly impossible to win the Tour de France during that era without the use of performance enhancing drugs.

The recent baseball hall of fame vote is a sad example of this cognitive dissonance. We are trying to disconnect ourselves from the absolute joy people felt when watching Mark McGuire chase Roger Maris or seeing Roger Clemons and Andy Pettite’s playoff triumphs.

In a year where the eligible class is among the most statistically prolific in history, is it really worth not letting a single person into the Baseball Hall of Fame just because we want to feel better about the guilt we feel supporting and even pushing these athletes to use PEDs? Are our heads that deep in the sand?

The feeling is so engorged now that we’re even punishing folks like career choir boy Craig Biggio who have no history of steroid suspicion.

Sports fans and journalists would rather live in blissful ignorance of the true extent of PED use among athletes. They want to celebrate athletes performing heroic feats in their prime, and then immediately  treat those who test positive like criminals.

Could the solution be than a more stringent PED testing program? Perhaps. If all of the major sports leagues implemented the standards currently being advocated by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association who knows how many of our favorite  athletes would be suspended or exiled from their sports?

Still, when a scandal breaks, our journalists and fans put on a face of disgust and cry “false pretenses!”. We rush to tear down the athletes who gave us the memorable achievements we once celebrated like we had no clue they might possibly be cheating to do it. Cancel the tearful Barry Bonds retirement press conference. Cut off those Live Strong bracelets.

We love the sausage, but we don’t want to see how it’s being made.

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