spoiler alert: i linked this
Similar to their March Madness competition, ESPN also has a bracket predictor contest for the European Championships that begin today. I've created an MGoBlog group, and if anyone is interested please join! I know this is kind of a late notice, but I just discovered the bracket predictor today. Good luck to all!
Group Name: MGoBlog
^Not sure if that link will work, but give it a shot!
Discussion about the dangers of football as it is currently played and the current, unprecedented levels of speed and strength in the game prompted my thoughts on the existence of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in football and other sports. How widespread is doping in major sports?
It used to be that doping was only something "bad guys" did. Ben Johnson. East Germans. Crazy European cyclists. For years I thought that PEDs were a dirty trick that only bad guys would indulge in--my favorite athletes and teams were all good guys and thus ethically incapable of such moral transgression.
However, Western sports are not immune to performance-enhancing drug use; see baseball, for example. When Jose Canseco threw syringes at every significant baseball player of the 90s I piled on baseball as a sport and arrogantly checked off a box on my list of reasons why football is superior to other sports. After all, the NFL tests for drugs!
I was being naive. In truth, I already knew better: The BALCO scandal shockingly revealed that the most sophisticated PEDs were invisible to contemporary tests. An athlete could dope wihout any limitation and never test positive. This inherent flaw in drug testing was and is a big deal; the most determined dopers are capable of defeating whatever tests are in place.
Lance Armstrong never tested positive. He won 7 Tours de France in a row, an unmatched record in cycling. I actively rooted him on, roping me into the small world of cycling fandom. Interesting fact you might not have known: virtually every cyclist that he shared a podium with from 1999-2006 was linked with doping (the lone exception was Fernando Escartin, placing third in 1999). That means that Lance beat riders that were actively cheating every year. Either he was also enhancing his performance... or it is the greatest athletic feat of all time.
I liked Lance. Accepting the possibility that he may have cheated was a difficult conclusion for me to draw. And that led me to an important conclusion about us as sports fans: We do not recognize the breadth of PED use in sports because we are asking the wrong question.
When we consider the possibility of PED use, what we want to do is ask ourselves whether or not we think someone would use it. We ask this about our favorite athletes: Would Steve Yzerman dope? Of course not! He's such a great guy. (This is still my actual position). We ask that about other athletes, too; people generally think Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. managed to get through the steroid era without juicing, and there may be good reason for that. However, I think this belief is at least partly held because people think highly of Jeter and Griffey as individuals.
That is part of the reason that so many people find it so easy to accept that Barry Bonds juiced at the end of his career: we don't like him. Sure, Goodyear recruited his head to join their blimp fleet, but he's a jerk, a villain; of course he'll dope.
But this is the wrong question. We take an incomplete understanding of the character of an athlete and, based on our conclusion of their behavior, make a wider judgment about the status of sports as a whole. "Barry Sanders wouldn't dope, therefore doping isn't a big deal in football, probably just a few bad apples."
But we don't understand the character of most athletes. In truth, a successful athlete is almost certainly driven by a level of competitiveness most of us will never comprehend. The drive to win, to succeed, to prove oneself to detractors, to get better, to achieve, is remarkable. That's what compels Kobe Bryant to spend hours in the gym before and after practice perfecting his shot. That's what compels Peyton Manning to spend hours and hours each week studying film--in the offseason. Victory. Success. Winning.
And individuals who seek to win will, often, go to any length available to succeed. Slightly late hits after the whistle. A whack at the hands at the base of a jump shot. A stick in the shins when the ref looks the other way. A rub of a dirty hand before a pitch.
PEDs can increase strength. They can increase speed. They can increase endurance (cyclists don't use anabolic steroids, but directly alter their blood chemistry to increase their cardiovascular efficiency to astonishing levels). What are sports if not tests for speed, strength, and endurance? PEDs can give a soccer player the endurance to win a corner in the 87th minute, a baseball player the extra length on a fly ball to hit a home run, or a running back the extra kick to make it to the second level. A basketball player gets extra height on their way to the basket, a hockey player recovers quicker for the next playoff game, a swimmer has the extra wattage to win at the wall.
If you want to know if there are PEDs in use in a sport, just figure out if their is a tangible benefit to them. Football, a game of speed and power, clearly benefits from PEDs. Baseball, where power hitting and power pitching are million-dollar attributes, also benefits. Cycling, swimming, distance running, soccer, and even tennis are sports where endurance can make the difference between winning and losing; they benefit. Basketball? Strength and particularly speed. Hockey? Strength and speed.
"But wait," you say. "Nobody in the NBA/NHL/EPL has tested positive." There are drugs known to beat tests, and sophisticated doping programs are brilliant at evading detection. If a sport has not had any positive tests, that doesn't mean nobody is doing it. In my opinion, that means a lot of people are doing it, and nobody has been caught.
I've settled on a principle for determining whether or not I think there is doping in a sport. The PED principle. I use it for my own opinion only, as much for a protection against future disappointment as anything else. It allows me to appreciate a sport, recognize the potential problems, and enjoy the athletes or teams I like without having to worry myself asking "Is so-and-so doping?"
The PED principle is this:
If there is a benefit to PEDs in a sport, athletes will use them. Unless the risk of consequences outweighs the benefits, many will do it. If I hold it against one sport, I must hold it against all of them... or none of them.
It's Darby time.... Open thread.
Man United leads Man City by 3 points with 3 games left. This game determine who wins the Premier League Title.
Man City Starting 11
Silva Tevez Nasri
Barry Y Toure
Clichy Lescott Kompany (C) Zabaleta
Man United Starting 11
Giggs Rooney Nani
Park Scholes Carrick
Evra (C) Jones Ferdinand Smalling
Edit: Evans not in due to injury replaces by Jones for Man United.
The USWNT's final match of the Kirin Challenge Cup was moved up four hours from 8PM to 4PM local due to expected bad weather. As it was, it was raining on and off, and it got worse in the second half.
I was a bit surprised that the starting lineup remained the same, given they played on Sunday. Brazil did not have Marta, who was with her club team.
18' - Abby Wambach got fouled in midfield, and Christie Rampone sent the free kick into the box. It dropped down just outside the six, where it deflected off Rachel Buehler's heel and went right. Unmarked, Carli Lloyd pounced on it for the 1-0 lead. Brazil G Barbara did not come out to get the ball. (Usual starter Andrea was there, but is still recovering from an injury.)
23' - Another set piece, taken by Lauren Cheney. She sends it far post, and it's Shannon Boxx making a curling run and heading the ball down into the lower left corner, and Barbara can't get to it.
30' - Brazil sends a long ball to the right corner, crossed and headed into goal. But it's waved off. The announcer thought the cross curled out of bounds.
68' - Free kick, and Alex Morgan heads it into goal. But it's waved off. I don't see any offsides. Was it a foul? Grrr.
83' - Free kick 32 yds out, as Daiane dragged down Amy Rodriguez, who subbed at 71' for Alex Morgan. Abby? heads it down and back (away from goal), it bounces off a leg, and settles in the center of the box. Amy blasts it, gets a deflection off a defender into the right side of the net.
Coach Sundhage used more subs this game: Stephanie Cox for Amy LePeilbet at 32'; Becky Sauerbrunn for Christie Rampone, and Megan Rapinoe for Heather O'Reilly at halftime; Tobin Heath for Carli Lloyd at 62'; and Heather Mitts for Kelley O'Hara at 83'.
The Kirin Challenge Cup finishes with Japan playing Brazil on Thursday. If they can't beat Brazil by more than three goals, the US claims the cup.
Next up for the USWNT is a friendly vs China on May 27 at PPL Park in Chester, PA.
The USMNT has four games showing on the schedule: May 26 vs Scotland, May 30 vs Brazil, June 3 vs Canada, June 8 vs Antigua & Barbuda.