Federal Politics


Sporting 'heroes', driven into the Hall of Shame, spurred on by drugs

I BELIEVE in the sports hero. Which is why news this week featuring people who have done their best to crush my naive notion has left me annoyed, angry and a tiny bit hopeful.

Baseball Hall of Fame voters picked precisely no one to be in their ''class of '13'' because many potential candidates were linked to drugs in the infamous ''steroid era'' and Lance Armstrong announced he's talking to Oprah on January 17.

This interview announcement follows a New York Times article claiming Lance is offering a full confession to the anti-doping folks, in return for a reduction on his lifetime ban on competing in anything.

Oprah wouldn't be doing a prime-time interview if Lance was trotting out the same old lies.

I was in Washington DC for the summer of 1998 - my first full summer here, and the summer Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa staged a remarkable battle for home-run champion, both breaking a record that had stood for 37 years. It was a summer of heroes, a special once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing I felt lucky to witness.

Then Barry Bonds smashed McGwire's record in an instant, and all three became immersed in drug scandals. McGwire's admitted his steroid use, Sammy seems to have forgotten English and Bonds still lives in his lies.


Meanwhile, the 1998 Tour de France was a drug-fuelled disaster. Teams pulled out, the police raided everything, a total mess. Then Armstrong arrived in '99 to win the next seven in a row. A hero emerges from the ashes, and restores a sport's good name.

My baseball ''heroes'' from '98 will say they're still heroic, because everyone was juiced up in that era, and it wasn't totally illegal. I'm betting Armstrong's going to say the same thing - all the riders were hopped up - which means he's still the greatest because it was a level, illegal playing field. Total rubbish.

Sport gives us a moment to admire the achievements of others - their physical attributes, mental toughness, and hard work. It's what every parent wants of their kids. Taking illegal drugs destroys that narrative. But that's not what really bothers me. It's the lying.

McGwire and Sosa were lying as they made baseball history. I wouldn't trust Bonds with my lunch money.

Armstrong has not only lied, he's insulted, accused, abused and bullied anyone who suggested he wasn't a saint. None of these people are heroes, whatever their achievements. Heroes have character. These men do not.

Baseball writers get it - which is why they couldn't find the heart to vote anyone from that era into the Hall of Fame.

Tim is a writer, TV producer and proud former Canberra resident who has lived in Los Angeles since 1997.

Twitter @timschildberger