Sometimes Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds seemed like supermen on the baseball field, just as Lance Armstrong did on the bicycle. But it appears they were all considerably smaller, physically and ethically. Although none has confessed, at least yet, all the evidence suggests that their extraordinary performances were made possible by performance-enhancing drugs; that they cheated and lied, then defied. And now they’re paying the price, as they should.
On Tuesday the Baseball Writers’ Association of America refused to give Clemens and Bonds what every baseball player dreams of, and what once was a foregone conclusion for both: enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. They both got some votes — presumably from writers who reasoned that they were Hall of Fame talents even before juicing (which is true), and their performance on the field, not character, is all that matters — but not nearly enough for a ticket to Cooperstown.
Nobody else from their era made it, either (the first time since 1996 the writers didn’t select a player), although some lesser players got close. It was the writers’ way of condemning the entire steroids era. And although Clemens and Bonds may eventually be voted in (we don’t think they should, because, in their arrogance, they compromised the integrity of the game and the records it holds dear), it was a welcome message now.
As for Armstrong, he had already lost. In October he was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles after the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released an exhaustive and convincing report showing that he not only used performance-enhancing drugs for at least 10 years, but, as team leader and most powerful person in the sport, orchestrated a major effort to supply and pressure his teammates into using them and otherwise cheat. At the same time, he was calling anyone who suggested he doped a liar, threatening, bullying, suing them. Some hero.
After all those years of denial, Armstrong may be about to confess. Not in court, although a confession could be used against him in civil lawsuits by former sponsors and others. Not to the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, although that may be coming soon, The New York Times reported last week. (Armstrong needs the agency to lift its lifetime ban on him competing in athletic events that adhere to the World Anti-Doping Code, which it might do if he provides them with useful information to go after others and clean up the sport.)
But to Oprah Winfrey and a national television audience. Her exclusive interview with him, to be taped today, will air on Jan. 17. Confession may be good for the soul, but for people like Armstrong, assuming he makes a real one (he probably could get Oprah’s forgiveness without that), it’s a strategy to employ when all else fails. The only way to get what they want, which is back in the game, in the spotlight, giving speeches, making money. What Armstrong really deserves is to be ignored.