The opening paragraph of the Washington Post's recent column on Lance Armstrong, from a journalist who formerly covered the NFL and Redskins beat as an editor, exposes a huge imbalance in regards to Lance Armstrong's role in the history of doping in professional sports.
Cindy Boren begins her piece with these words words of judgement:
Just what has Lance Armstrong learned from being both the greatest and most disgraced athlete in cycling history?
Well, some, but not a lot because he says he'd probably dope again if he were somehow magically transported back in time to 1995.
The Washington Post titled the piece, "I would probably do it again." This was a fragment extracted from a quote reported by the BBC, and alone, this could be interpreted to represent a number of different attitudes and perceptions about how widespread doping was in cycling, not to mention other sports. If a person has the belief that Armstrong and his teammates were the only ones using banned substances, and that's how they secured seven consecutive Tour de France wins, that's certainly going to color how they interpret the Post's chosen headline.
First, let's examine the entire BBC quote, as published by the Post:
"If I was racing in 2015? No, I wouldn't do it again," Armstrong told BBC Sport for an upcoming documentary. "Because I don't think you have to do it again. If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive? [I'd] probably do it again."
The decision Armstrong made is the same decision any serious professional cyclist made at the time: You adopted doping because you were getting crushed by the teams that had already adopted a doping program. The use of EPO had changed the game so dramatically in the early 1990s of the European circuit, you either got on board or packed your bags and decided cycling for fun, and not money, is good enough.
Here's my follow-up question to any journalist covering the NFL who takes some time to comment on what Armstrong has learned or hasn't since he was stripped of his seven TDF wins and handed a lifetime ban from participating in even a non-competitive charity bike ride.
What's the status of steroid and HGH use in the NFL? Why does the NFL, as the NYT's put it, get a free pass on doping?
Consider this bit from a 2013 story by Tyler Dunne on the pervasiveness of human growth hormone use in the NFL:
As soon as the three letters are mentioned—H-G-H—the player laughs. Human growth hormone? In the NFL? Come on. HGH use is rampant, this NFC starter says.
"It's like clockwork nowadays," he said, estimating 10-15 players on each team use the banned substance. "Not tested and it's easy to get. Nowadays, dude? In 2013? (Expletive) yeah. I'm just being real."