Friday, July 28, 2006

Landis Speaks

In an emotional press conference, Tour de France winner protests his innocence. I'd probably believe him more if he wasn't weeping one second and swinging a folding chair around his head like a baseball bat the next.

Seriously though, I do hope they find him innocent. This was one hell of an inspiring comeback, and for once, I'd like to see a sports hero win without the specter of steroids or some other form of performance enhancer looming in the background.

One of the sad results of last year's steroid hearings (along with McGwire's lame "I'm not here to talk about the past," Sosa's sudden inability to speak a word of english, and Rafael Palmiero's strident (and ultimately false) denials that he was a user) is that we look askew at anyone who achieves any degree of greatness and wonder whether he's juiced or not.

Just last week, I was with some guys who were talking about how Albert Pujols is on the juice, and it's only a matter of time before he's outed. I was his sole defender in the room, and still, a small part of me wondered whether I was just wasting my time defending yet another cheater.

Maybe I've become to jaded to enjoy sports, or perhaps I'm far too naive, because I want our athletes to come by their successes using God-given talent, hard work and drive, as opposed to dirty needles in a cramped bathroom stall, while hoping they can figure out how to evade the next round of testing.

In any case, right now a winner stands in front of the world, trying to maintain his innocence. Even if he succeeds, the taint will be with him for the rest of his life, coloring his actions, spreading doubt into the hearts of those who want to believe in him. In some ways, he's already lost.

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