Just some random thinking here as Friday comes to a close….I am a big sports fan. I enjoy almost all sports. And one thing we’ve seen across most of competitive sports in the last 30 years is the rise of performance enhancing drugs. It’s been particularly notable in baseball, football and cycling.
The latest news that makes me think about all of this is the recent comments by Lance Armstrong in which he basically says he had to cheat to win. And you know what? I think he’s probably right. Can you imagine if you came into work every day and the guy next to you was cutting corners and just blatantly cheating to get ahead? What would you do? What if it directly threatened your ability to earn an income and take care of your family? Would you cheat? Would you break the law? I am sure many of you wouldn’t. But I am sure that many of you would do whatever it takes to support your families to the best of your abilities. Even if it meant crossing that line. And if it seemed like everyone around you was doing it then that would only further solidify your rationalization for cheating. I suspect that’s what happened in Major League Baseball in the late 1990’s and cycling more recently. There have been numerous reports that most (not all) of the top athletes in these sports were cheating to some degree.
Now, that doesn’t justify what was done. And it certainly doesn’t justify the way many of them have lied about it or gone about ruining other people’s lives to defend this façade. But I think it makes it more understandable. The problem is, very few of these athletes have actually come forward and said something to that degree – “hey, you know what, I was competing to win the starting job and the guy in line for the position was breathing down my neck with a syringe of Deca Durabolin hanging out of his mouth and I did what I had to do to keep my job and take care of my family”.
Should we condone cheaters and apologize for them? Certainly not. But given the circumstances that many of these athletes have likely confronted, I do think they deserve forgiveness when they tell the truth (which, unfortunately, is all too rare). As for the ones who wrecked other people’s lives in trying to cover up their lies…they deserve everything the law and the public brings down on them. And going forward, I hope this gets cleaned up. This has been a very bad era for sports and the message it teaches is worse than bad. The absolute worst thing that could come from all this is if we forgive and forget….
Mr. Roche is the Founder and Chief Investment Officer of Discipline Funds.Discipline Funds is a low fee financial advisory firm with a focus on helping people be more disciplined with their finances.
He is also the author of Pragmatic Capitalism: What Every Investor Needs to Understand About Money and Finance, Understanding the Modern Monetary System and Understanding Modern Portfolio Construction.