Brandon Meawasige / Senior Sports Editor
Like many Canadian university students I grew up in the 1990s, reaching my teenage years at the turn of the millennium. As a result, I have had the opportunity to witness some of the most rapid changes and progress in human history. There have been groundbreaking ideas, technological advancements and inventions. New levels of human achievement have been reached and nowhere is this more evident than the capabilities of the human body.
In sport, over the last 20 years, records have been broken – or, rather, smashed. Athletes have been able to do things that have never been done before. Felix Baumgartner jumped from space only to land safely, Michael Phelps became the best Olympian in history and at the same competition in London a man with no legs competed against the best in the world.
It is safe to say that the last 20 years have changed sports forever. Lance Armstrong won seven Tour de France titles, Barry Bonds hit 766 home runs-becoming the most prolific power hitter Baseball has ever seen and those with whom he competed Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and Alex Rodriguez made for one of the most exciting periods the sport has ever seen.
In my childhood, I was able to watch these things, and such an opportunity was a blessing. History was made and the names I grew up knowing are forever entrenched in the books as icons of athletic excellence in their given sport.
Unfortunately, like many great things in this life, there are some underlying negatives. Though the history books are riddled with names from the last 20 years, most of the record books require some form of qualifier or asterisk to set aside the athletes who cheated.
By the same token that the last 20 years have been the most glorious in sports, let alone human, history – they have also been the most shameful by way of ethics and fair competition, so to speak.
Guess what? I don’t give a flying fuck.
For all of those people who are morally opposed to way things have gone, good for you. I too disagree that steroids and performance enhancing drugs are not right. That being said, I cannot sit here and say that they are completely wrong.
I would not trade my childhood sports experiences in order to say that I watched fair games.
During Lance Armstrong’s recent confession to Oprah Winfrey on national television, the world found out that one of the greatest athletes ever to compete was a cheater. Everything he did was a lie.
Would I have rather had six or seven cyclists win the Tour de France in those years? Absolutely not. Yes, there is a certain taint to the news that Armstrong cheated, but it never makes it past “Wow, that sucks”.
Again, I would not trade a night at the Sky Dome with my father watching Barry Bonds hit one of his home runs that helped make him the best ever.
He, too, cheated his way into the record books. However, the steroids he took did not make him the player he was. Just as they did not make Armstrong climb the Alps.
For every Armstrong, Bonds or Clemons there are an endless grouping of athletes who will never amount to absolutely anything.
It takes more than big muscles or high endurance to make up a world class, record-breaking athlete. Bobby Bonds, Barry’s father, was an all time great and Willie Mays, one of the best players to ever play the game, was Barry’s godfather.
It is of a narrow scope to say that steroids are the be all and end all of triumph. I will concede, undoubtedly, that performance-enhancing drugs are not ideal.
But in a world that is far from perfect or pure, and to search for purity in sports brings to question how exactly to define such purity.
To me, there is nothing more pure than watching Armstrong conquer the world of cycling, capturing the hearts of sports fans everywhere and using his fame to found one of the most profitable cancer research foundations on the face of this planet.
To me, there is nothing more pure than a memory of sharing a piece of baseball history with my dad.
To me, I would not trade either memory for drug-free competition, and if you say you would, then you are a purest, not a true sports fan – there is a difference.