A Gamble on Substance
The Tour de France went sans yellow jersey last week after leader Michael Rasmussen allegedly lied about his whereabouts during a drug test. The Danish rider was not alone in infamy: Two entire teams were absent as the pack rolled down the Champs-Elysées. The doping scandals have done incalculable damage, but at least cycling's tough zero-tolerance policy offers a beacon in one of the most troubled times the sports world has seen.
America's national pastime has moved beyond denying its substance abuse problem; congressional hearings on steroids in the game may have helped. But can professional baseball recover from the damage the juiced era has inflicted on the game's history? Consider the demands on Commissioner Bud Selig last weekend: attend the Hall of Fame ceremony for Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynntwo of the game's most respected heroesor watch Barry Bonds, the scandal-tainted San Francisco Giant, move inexorably closer toward owning the game's lifetime home-run record. Long gone are the days of Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the sport's first commissioner, who banned eight Chicago White Sox players for lifedespite their acquittal in courtfor damaging the reputation of the game. Most of the Black Sox were punished for throwing the 1919 World Series, but others were banned simply for keeping mum when the fix was in.
Thus far, there is no indication that anyone else in professional basketball knew about the alleged shenanigans of NBA ref Tim Donaghytargeted in an FBI pointshaving probe. But what happens to the league's reputation remains to be seen. "It ain't cheating," Yankees manager Billy Martin used to say, "if you don't get caught." True enough, but every cheater forces other athletes and fans to live with the legacy of somebody else's gamble.
This story appears in the August 6, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.