- May 18, 2008 at 8:36 pm #9391
Trevor Graham, once the world's pre-eminent sprint coach, will be fighting for his freedom when his court case opens Monday on charges that he lied to federal investigators in the Balco Laboratories steroids probe.
But something else will be on trial in a San Francisco courtroom: the already reeling credibility of U.S. track and field.
With the Beijing Olympics less than three months away, the trial could not come at a worse time for a sport that has a chance only once every four years to capture America's imagination. The Graham case promises a further public airing about the use of performance-enhancing drugs by star track athletes. The sordid details could stoke the perception that sports fans, weary of the never-ending steroids issue, no longer can believe any performance they witness.
“It is very difficult to sweep under the rug what has happened after the last four years,” said Edwin Moses, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, who was among the first athletes to speak out about drug use. “The days are over when you can pretend it didn't happen. The sport has been irreparably damaged. Everyone is so disgusted.”
Graham's trial has the potential to provide a fresh round of disgust.
- May 19, 2008 at 1:26 pm #25172
I don't deny that this has the potential to cause great damage to the sport and I don't deny that there is a drug problem in the sport. Here's a question about the perception of the average sports fan, though. At least, in T&F, they put forth an effort to offer a clean sport. American sports fans have no trouble watching what everyone knows are drugged up players in the major pro sports but then take a holier than thou view of T&F? How about that for a double standard? If there is such a thing as a clean sport, even if there isn't, T&F is as clean as they come. Why is it the one taking all the heat on this issue? Is the perception of the sport dependent on how much or little it tries to enact and enforce drug rules? Would the sport's image be better if it just ignored the issue like all the major pro sports in America (and don't get me started on the ridiculous “testing policies” just recently enacted by the MLB and NFL, T&F may not be perfect but it is leaps and bounds ahead of them)?
- May 19, 2008 at 6:51 pm #25173
I've given up on most records in any sport in the last 20 years having much meaning behind them. Kinda sad – cuz it takes some sparkle out of sport.
- May 19, 2008 at 11:02 pm #25174
The difference, unfortunately, is a matter of visibility — at least in part. T&F comes into the public consciousness once every four years. Yet several times within those four-year spans there are drug scandals involving T&F athletes making the news. Baseball, football, basketball, etc. fairly regularly generate news items that (mostly) highlight the positive in their sport, the competition and the good guys, not just the bad guys and scandals. I like athletes like David Eckstein, Steve Smith, and Chris Paul because they play so well and give every appearance of doing things the right way. They are frequently in front of the public's eyes doing what they do best in their respective sports via the media, they are not off doing 'training stints in Albuquerque' for months at a time. T&F athletes are comparatively invisible except for a month or two during years divisible by four. By being able to showcase their best so regularly, the NFL, MLB, NBA, etc. can much more easily project a positive image of competition (even if the appearance may be hollow) compared with T&F. T&F will always have a hard time combating a negative image because that is what ends up being portrayed via the media most frequently. Until about a year ago, I considered pro cycling to be the dirtiest sport on the face of the planet. They have taken a short-term PR hit to ostensibly out the rats, there have been a lot of negative stories in the press regarding pro cycling because they finally stopped being so lax in doping enforcement.
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