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Cheaters Cheaters
by Joseph Gatt
2008-01-07 10:22:01
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What would sports look like without doping? Who are the great champions who were accused of doping? Here’s a list of great champions who allegedly doped, and, some believe, who would never have been great champions without doping.

Martina Hingis: She was the youngest ever to win a double’s title, youngest ever to win a single’s title and youngest ever to be ranked world number 1. At the tender age of 16, she was collecting tournaments and seen as the player to beat. She never won a French open, though she came close several times and nearly won the single’s Grand Slam in 1997, though she won the double’s grand slam that year. Her career gains total 20 million dollars, commercial deals not being included. She owns mansions in Florida and Switzerland. She tested positive for cocaine in 2007, and quietly announced her retirement.

Was doping involved in all that success? Officially not, but if that is the case, tennis would have been a whole different game without her. She dominated the game from 1996 to 2000, and was compared to the greatest tennis players ever. Whatever people say, she’s a cheater, and if she does confess that she cheated to win all those tournaments, she should return her gains and trophies to the WTA, and erase her name from the history of tennis.

Carl Lewis: Won 9 Olympic gold medals and was world champion 8 times in track and field. He broke the 100 meters record, broken since, and came close to breaking Mike Pawels’ long jump world record. He is a role model to many, as he won Olympic gold medals over 12 years in four Olympiads. It is argued that he is the greatest athlete to set foot track or field. He was also named “Sportsman of the Century” by the International Olympic Committee in 1999.

According to documents provided by Dr. Wade Exum, the United States Olympic Committee’s former of drug control administration, Lewis was among a list of people who were cleared to compete in the Olympics despite having doped. He tested positive before the Seoul Olympics, but was cleared to participate. Ben Johnson however had his medal stripped from the same Olympic Games for using banned substances. Should an investigation be properly carried out, and for justice to be made to the sport and to all those who competed with Lewis without using banned substance, Lewis should be stripped from all honors, financial gains, records and titles related to the sport.

Diego Maradona: French band Mano Negra reffered to Maradona as “Santa Maradona”, and he got the people’s choice FIFA Player of the Century award. He played in four World Cups and was capped 94 times playing for Argentina, scoring 34 goals. He also failed a doping case for cocaine use in 1991, then for ephedrine use in 1994. He was considered by some as the “Son of God”, and while playing for Italian club Napoli, many fans claimed they loved him more than their mother.

I remember an Italian channel called Napoli TV which around 2001 often aired footage of Maradona’s achievements. It is not clear when he started using banned substances. The weird thing is that despite being controlled positive for doping, people still believe he is one of the greatest players in history. Would he still be a soccer great if he admitted he had used illegal substances for longer than what people thought?

Barry Bonds: Bonds comes from a family of baseball players and is considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was elected MVP seven times, holds the all time record for home runs, walks and intentional walks. A 14-time all star, he ranks 6th in the Sporting News’ greatest baseball players of all time list. Since 2003, he has been involved in the BALCO scandal in which it was revealed that several baseball players, including Bonds, allegedly used banned substances.

In former US senator George Mitchell’s report on the use of steroids in US professional baseball, Bonds name is listed. Bonds is also indicted for allegedly lying under oath to a jury on his use of steroids. If his use of banned substances is confirmed, what will his records become? Will his name be erased from the history of the sport? What about all the names that were mentioned in Mitchell’s report? Had there been no doping, what would Major League Baseball look like?

Zhanna Pintusevitch: She used to be my personal favorite. A charismatic sprinter from Ukraine, she also tried to compete for Israel, and was a great challenger for Marion Jones. I always thought that if she did not cheat, and still managed to beat Marion Jones who I had no doubt was cheating, it would be a glorious moment for the sport. It was the case, as Pintusevitch beat Marion Jones in the 100 meter finals at the Edmonton World Championships in 2001. However, she caused great disappointment among her fans when she was identified by Victor Conte as one of the people he supplied illegal substances in the BALCO scandal. If challengers also allegedly take illegal substances who doesn’t?

Jan Ullrich: Ullrich won it all. He is a former Olympic champion, world champion, Tour de France winner, Vuelta winner and Tour de Suisse winner. The only tour that eluded him was the Giro. That earned him the nickname “Der Kaiser” or the King in German, a nickname previously attributed to Franz Beckenbauer. In 2006, he was suspended from attending the Tour de France for his implications in the Operación Puerto doping case.

Ulrich always denied the rumors and claimed “I never once cheated as a cyclist”. Investigations however proved to contradict Ullrich’s claims, and they are still ongoing. If he is found guilty, in a sport marred with doping cases, I wonder who will claim all the titles he claimed, since the people who would be on the list of potential champions were also involved in doping scandals. Indeed, the one who came second at the Tour de France Ullrich won, Richard Virenque, is also involved in a doping scandal.

Djamel Bouras: Last but not least, someone who has not had a brilliant career despite winning Olympic gold in 1996, and whose personality is even more despicable. A French judoka, he also finished second at the world championships in 1995 and 1997. Now a politician, he is notorious for his repeated anti-Semitic remarks, and radical Islamic comments. He tested positive for nandrolone in 1997, which he denied using. He claimed that he did not consciously take such substances. Had there been an investigation that proved Bouras doped before he was tested positive, he should give up his titles and admit he cheated.

Having practiced athletics during my teenage years, I met some people who openly took illegal substances without ever being caught. Since a lot of money is involved in sports, for many, it would be wise to cheat in order to gain respect as a champion and to make money. I respect champions who fight to make their way through a lot, but I have come to doubt whether their results are purely the fruit of their hard work.

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