Lance Armstrong was a hero to many. At the biggest cycling event of the year, the Tour De France, he holds the record for most wins with a mind-boggling seven. Well, he used to. On 22nd October 2012, the sporting world was shaken to its core. On this day, an unprecedented scene shook millions of fans across the world, cycling’s biggest and most successful name was stripped of his many crowns. Lance Armstrong had been convicted of systematically using illicit performance-enhancing drugs and blood transfusions. In layman’s terms, the disgraced superstar was guilty of the biggest crime in the world of professional sport-doping.
Across the board, drug abuse has plagued a variety of sports and it is hardly a new phenomenon. Doping can be traced back to the conception of the idea of the sport itself. Scandinavian mythology, for example, detailed processes where berserkers would drink a type of fluid to increase their muscle power at the risk of insanity. Even the Ancient Olympic Games in Athens and the famed chariot races of Rome were said to be home to participants that enhanced their performance using a variety of herb and medicinal mixtures. Roger Abrams, the Richardson Professor of Law at Northeastern University, summed up most layman concerns when he said, ‘The legitimacy of the sports we love depends upon our belief that the games are played on the level.’
In contemporary times, the sport has gained increasing relevance. The Olympic Games saw fierce competition between the United States and the USSR and sportspersons were seen as national heroes. Fictional athletes like Rocky Balboa and the real ones like Nadia Comaneci were used by their states for propaganda purposes. The erstwhile Soviet Union and what is now the Russian Federation also present an example of state-sponsored enhancement. When the sport itself transcends the field of individual achievements and when the Olympic Games become an international battleground of superiority, then States get involved in the dirty underworld of doping.
The Russians were recently banned from all international sport for the Government’s role in this program. This tarnishing of the World of Sport threatens to take away from us an event that brought together millions from across the world. A racist America can sit up and take notice of Jesse Owens as the African-Americans dominated the Berlin Olympic Games held in Nazi Germany. The power of sport is undeniable, but the hijacking of this narrative by governments must be stopped. Separating politics from sport is necessary if one wishes to maintain the sanctity of the sporting world. This is not to say that one should condone heinous acts like racism, but rather it stands for a sporting world that is free of State influence and athlete indoctrination. In an increasingly gloomy world, the last thing that we need to be snatched from us is the beautiful game.