Steroids, Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong


In the postmodern sports world, it’s not uncommon to hear stories of cheating, steroid use and doping.  However, a former student-athlete, I find it mind-boggling that anyone would want to take them, especially since the health and personal repercussions aren’t worth it.  This piece examines Ben Johnson and Lance Armstrong and their connections to steroids and doping.

Ben Johnson

Sprinters in the 1980s seemed to be cheaters, according to With the increased use of drugs in the track and field world, it seemed that all sprinters used performance-enhancing drugs, and Canadian Ben Johnson was no exception. He used steroids to increase his performance, but alleges that everyone sprinting at that time cheated too. In the sports documentary 9.79*, the story of the 1988 Seoul Olympics is told, and, more importantly, the story of Johnson and his world-record breaking time. Johnson was stripped of his medal after testing positive for steroids. The medal was given to runner-up Carl Lewis, Johnson’s greatest rival.

“Why should I train hard doing it clean and then these other guys are not clean. Fair is fair,” Johnson said in the documentary. Yes, fair is fair, but in what universe is cheating?  Back in the day, athletes would only get tested at prominent sporting events. Therefore, those who were doping could, theoretically, wean off the product and test clean.

Lance Armstrong

Undoubtedly, one of the most inspiring and successful American athletes to date is Lance Armstrong. With seven Tour de France titles under his belt, being one of the most recognized cyclists in the world and overcoming cancer, which led him to create the Livestrong Foundation in 1997.  (Do you remember those yellow rubber bracelets everyone wore?) He seemed to have everything. Then rumors circulated that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs. Inevitably, a substantial blow was delivered to Armstrong: The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency banned him from competing for life and stripped him of his seven titles.

But right from the start and more than two dozen times during the first of a two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey on her OWN network, the disgraced former cycling champion acknowledged what he had lied about repeatedly for years.  “I didn’t invent the culture, but I didn’t try to stop the culture,” he said in the interview.

Pastor Ed Young, prominent figure in Grapevine, Texas, referred to Armstrong in a recent Facebook post as one who made a compromise. In a recent “What Would Jesus Say To…” series, Pastor Young told his congregation that Christ would tell the disgraced cyclist to stop running away from the truth, stop lying and turn to God.  “If everybody cheats, is anybody cheating?” That’s a good question. But if you’re living your life based on what other people are doing, well that’s like saying, “I’m going to jump off a bridge because my friend jumped off a bridge,” he said.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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