Winning With Integrity

by Ben Perreira

It seems like every week a story comes accusing athletes of either cheating on their wives or cheating their competition. From Tiger Woods to Lance Armstrong to Mark McGwire to Kobe Bryant, athletes are under the microscope for what they do off the field as much as on the field. 

Still, as much as we like to eavesdrop on their personal lives, there is a big difference in how these athletes are treated after the scandals if they are on the field, and rightfully so. That is not to say extramarital affairs are ok, per se, but that a professional is only eligible for redemption for misgivings if they occur beyond the confines of sidelines.

Take Ray Lewis, who was accused of double murder in 2000 and just in the last few weeks was accused of using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). The legal system absolved him of the murder charge (to the dismay of many, perhaps), but the jury is still out on the PEDs. He is one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history, but one must wonder what will happen to his legacy if he is found to have used banned substances in the same year his team won the Super Bowl. I would suspect his legacy should and would take a huge hit.

Michael Vick was greeted with open arms upon his release from jail after he was convicted of animal abuse. He did his time for a heinous crime.

Lance Armstrong, on the other hand, will have a tough time coming back from lying to the public for over a decade about his PED use, and for even going as far as to sue someone for libel for accusing him of doping. 

(Tangent on Armstrong: Some of his former sponsors have said they will attempt to claw back some former payments, likely reaching into the millions. I believe they are not justified in doing so. The public thought Armstrong was a hero at the time and the brands got what they paid for. The brands will have a tough time proving that the damage is still being caused after his admission of steroid use and the termination of the contract. I’m staying tuned to see what happens.)

Sports fans love the drama created when our favorite athletes and teams triumph in uncertain situations. We love when they overcome adversity and even legal trouble. We don’t love when we find out athletes cheat. We can accept losing, but we cannot accept cheating.