How surprised should we all be over the speculation that legendary bicyclist Lance Armstrong was indeed doping to improve his performance?
Armstrong, who was stripped of seven Tour de France titles after authorities determined he was using performance-enhancing drugs, has given an interview to Oprah Winfrey during which he reportedly copped to the doping. The athlete has vehemently denied using the drugs up until now.
It's easy to get angry at the sheer lie of it all—not just the lie, but the indignation with which the lie was told. It's the difference between denying having an affair to spare your spouse the humiliation and pain, and taking it one step further, accusing the wronged spouse of not possessing the requisite marital trust. But in our drug-addicted culture, are performance-enhancing drugs that awful?
It's cheating, of course. But it's not as though we all start out on a level playing field when it comes to sports. Basketball is a game of tremendous skill, requiring grueling training, but it also depends on freakish height. Most of us could take all the drugs we can find, and we'll still never run a sub-five minute mile or achieve a double axel. And we seem to find it normal when a football player is shot up with cortisone or painkillers and sent back out onto the field to compete.
The multibillion dollar pharmaceutical industry barrages the general public with advertisements for drugs nonphysicians are not remotely qualified to evaluate. There's always a new ailment—restless leg syndrome, difficulty paying attention to boring things—that the drug industry has determined to be an illness treatable by chemicals. The ads for gender-based drugs are particularly manipulative, with women being told that menstrual symptoms they have are not really headaches or abdominal cramps, but special syndromes of their own that need to be treated with prescription drugs (or maybe a dart gun, as one particularly offensive ad suggests with its depiction of an irrational woman and her poor long-suffering husband). And men are told they have low testosterone—actually, "Low T," since some drug marketer has clearly determined that men are too threatened to say the word "testosterone" without sacrificing their manhoods. It couldn't just be age or changing priorities—nope, it's a disease that needs to be cured with drugs. And children who can't or won't pay attention in school are drugged as well, although many might be better treated by being deprived of sugared cereals and video games.
It's disappointing that Armstrong would dope up. But given the drug culture we're created and supported, what else could we expect?