2012 Olympics: Olympic Sprint Champion LaShawn Merritt Back in the Olympic Game

A recent story in the New York Times this past December, Sprinter Leaves Humiliation Behind, caused this writer to pause. As the story goes, LaShawn Merritt had taken a sexual-enhancement drug which happened to contain substances that triggered positives on three PED tests.

Now you can imagine what doping officials would say to that excuse? As the NY piece points out, they have probably heard every possible, unlikely, scenario imaginable. Liken to the proverbial “my dog ate my homework” excuse that some students might give a teacher when they don’t complete an expected assignment―they make up a story and lie.

It sure does seem that a common philosophy today is simply to be dishonest when one gets caught doing something wrong, i.e. Clinton, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

However, in this case, Mr. Merritt wasn’t lying, as he was able to prove to doping officials that the positive tests implicating him as just another “cheater” were completely inadvertent, thus, bringing me back to that pause in thought I had as I read through the NY Times piece.

From my perspective, a perspective that centers on the idea of using PED’s to enhance performance is unethical and certainly a form of cheating, “intent” makes all the difference.

Now I could see where one could argue that Merritt should still forfeit any achievements he garnered while using that sexual-enhancement medication, at least if doping officials agree the amount taken constituted an advantage. Whether intended or not, it does constitute an uneven playing field.

However, banning him from further competition; that, in my opinion, would be extreme. Again, to me, intent is everything.

When someone makes a conscious choice to use any type of illegal performance-enhancement to try and “win,” beat their opponents, and/or become successful, they have left the honorable and ethical competitive playing field far behind. They have, willingly, cheated. For those types, make the consequence as severe as you want. The more severe, the better.

Yet, to look at all scenarios as simply black and white, an absolute so-to-speak, I don’t believe that to be right or fair. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb here and actually agree to the medical use, recommended and administered by a medical professional in accordance with sound medical practice, of say HGH (or any other type of drug) for injury rehabilitation and recovery.

For example, say an athlete tore their ACL and had to have it surgically repaired, and several injections of HGH, after surgery, would enhance the healing process, allowing the body part to regain normal function again, that would be completely acceptable. To me, this is not a form of cheating.

As long as the intent is to bring the athlete back to his normal state of function and it does not constitute a competitive advantage over his or her competition, then fine.

The only problem I see, at this point, is that we don’t have enough athletes with the kind of character and integrity that would encourage them to “man up” and admit their true intent of PED use. They, like a good number of students with that homework scenario I mentioned earlier, simply lie.

Maybe we should spend more time finding ways to build stronger character and integrity in up-and-coming athletes rather than so much energy, time, and money on the consequence for such actions (even though we will always need some efforts there).

But of course if that were to happen, and change did occur, then much of my discussion above would be moot since cheating through the use of PED’s would be minimal.

I don’t know, just a thought.

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