[Commentary] Steroid-disgraced heroes

Lying to protect the institutions they jeopardized

Joshua Longobardy

Similar to communism in the 1950s, performance-enhancing drugs have stirred in the past decade widespread suspicions and virulent accusations, the evidence of which spans from Congressional hearings to neighbors looking askance at one another.

What, though, is the big deal about steroids?

In reality it is more than the fact that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs are illegal—for McCarthyism proved that legality has little to do with such commotion. It is, moreover, the chagrin that accompanies a disgraced hero.

The tragedy of an inspirational preacher who is exposed sinning is not only that his integrity is shattered in the eyes of his followers; but also that the integrity of what he represents—the church, biblical living, Christianity—suffers commensurately.

In this way, the reputations of the individual sports heroes implicated in steroid scandals are not the only chips at stake. So too are the larger, and beloved, abstracts which those heroes embody.

Thus the fierce and oftentimes stubborn denial we hear from the accused.

For example: If he is guilty, as he’s been publicly accused, it is no wonder baseball pitcher Roger Clemens will deny it, as he has done, to the bitter end, despite the mounting evidence. A titan in baseball, his name is instantly associated with the historic teams for which he’s played, the seven Cy Young awards he’s won and even the game of baseball itself, one of America’s favorite pastimes. To pour dirt on his name is to sully all that he stands on. The cases of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Olympic medalist Marion Jones reiterate this.

Athletes like Andy Pettitte, Rodney Harrison and Josh Barnett have readily admitted to using performance-enhancing substances after being accused. None of them is an icon in his respective sport (baseball, football and mixed martial arts).

Which is to say: The better an athlete becomes, by natural or unnatural means, the more he has to lose in the wreckage of a public scandal.

And so, Nevada boxer Joey Gilbert, a former UNR student and rising star, has not merely denied the steroid accusations levied at him by the Nevada State Athletic Commission last November, after he failed a drug test following his fight, but has also proactively fought back.

His lawyer filed a motion with the NSAC against its executive director in late January for “false and defamatory statements which have irreparably damaged Mr. Gilbert’s reputation.”

Among other things. For, besides his 16-and-1 professional record, the 31-year-old Gilbert has television experience, modeling contracts and a license to practice law in Nevada.

As with Clemens, how much greater would his tragedy be if he is in fact innocent?

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