Friday, July 23, 2004

No one's immune to this drug

Lance Armstrong. Marion Jones. Barry Bonds. Three people with a lot in common.

They're superstars, first of all, each in his or her own sport. They have overcome obstacles, succeeding in ways no one thought possible. And now they are united in a new challenge, vastly different from any they have encountered before.

With the specter of possible steroid use looming perilously above, one of the most fascinating aspects of the scandal is just how deeply each of these athletes have been affected, and how they've each dealt with the criticism in different ways.

Armstrong, a virtual shoe-in to win his sixth straight Tour de France, last week lashed out at the French media, whom he claimed were attempting to raid his hotel room in a search for evidence of steroid use.

"It's scandalous," Armstrong said of the alleged incident, later opining that "in France, they're after us."

He also fired back at criticism from three-time Tour winner Greg Lamond, a fellow American who suggested that Armstrong "would do anything to keep his secret."

Friday, during the Tour's 18th stage, he doggedly chased after Italian rider Filippo Simeoni, who has testified against a controversial sports doctor with whom Armstrong has ties

Jones, considered by many to be the fastest woman alive, has attempted to maintain her squeaky-clean image by addressing accusations head-on in the media and taking a polygraph test last month.

It will be interesting to see whether she can keep up a brave face, especially as her former coach, ex-husband, and current boyfriend are all investigated regarding their involvement in the Bay Area Lab Co-Operative steroid scandal.

In stark contrast to Jones' approach, Bonds has been notably quiet, declining to discuss the BALCO case as he inches closer to Hank Aaron's career home run mark of 755.

While controversy continues to swirl around Bonds and the legitimacy of his quest to become the greatest slugger of all-time, his strategy of silence appears to be working. He has managed to steer clear of any major media firestorms this season, although that is at least partially due to the sudden attention surrounding Jones and Armstrong.

Armstrong. Jones. Bonds. Three athletes of similar stature with the same problem, dealing with it in different ways. Each hoping -- whether he or she is guilty or not -- that what they say (or don't say) will be enough to exonerate them. Unfortunately, that ingores the sad truth about the BALCO case: Everyone is guilty until proven innocent.

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