The Ethics of Giving Up on Ethics

Paul Daugherty, a sportswriter for the Cincinnati Enquirer,recently wrote a column expressing a theme I hear all too often regarding politics, government, education, and society generally. Motivated by the steroid allegations against yet another hero, Lance Armstrong, Daugherty penned his surrender to a culture that doesn’t seem to care about ethics. Daugherty wrote:

“Everyone wants sports to be equitable. We all desire the level field. No one wants sports to be as drugged up as Woodstock in 1969. But it is. We’ve fought the ethical fight. We’ve lost. It could be time to let it go.
Even the athletes who lose still win. Mark McGwire got his, Barry Bonds got his, Brian Cushing got his. If you wait enough, deny enough, then rationalize believably, you get yours. Disgrace fades. Only Olympic athletes wear the stink of doping longer than the average 5-year-old’s attention span. In one respect, it’s not unlike the fight against legalizing marijuana. It has lasted so long, and now seems so pointless, I can’t even remember what we’ve been arguing about. We’ve become numb to it….It’s only a little outrageous now to suggest that a professional athlete be allowed to use performance-enhancing substances to his (enlarged) heart’s content, as long as he’s doing it legally….So what’s the point?”

“What’s the point?” Continue reading

Armstrong, Bonds, Steroids, and Bias

Barry Bonds was forcibly retired from baseball despite general agreement that he could still hit a ball better than most active players. No team would hire him, because he had become the symbol of baseball’s steroid and performance-enhancing drugs scandal that casts a permanent shadow over the game’s image, statistics, integrity, and current stars. Bonds never has admitted to using P.E.D.’s, but the evidence that his remarkable late-career success was illicitly aided by banned substances is overwhelming, and indeed was overwhelming while he was playing. [I have written about the fairness of judging Bonds a cheater and the tortured rationalizations employed by his defenders here, here, and here.] At the same time, another individual who dominates his sport, cyclist Lance Armstrong, has managed to convince most of the media and his adoring public that accusations that he used steroids are false, even though the circumstantial evidence against him rivals what has condemned Bonds. This has always had the stench of a double standard; now, in the wake of new allegations by a former team mate, the only excuses for not giving Armstrong the Bonds treatment are unethical ones. Continue reading