NBC Fail

NBC is getting a ton of heat for not showing many of the premium sporting events in The Olympics live for the American audience. Given what they paid, it’s understandable that they want to maximize prime time viewership, and NBC’s defenders are quick to point out the record rating for these Olympics.

But the NBC strategy was seriously flawed for the 100 meter final featuring the fastest human Usain Bolt. The race took place live at around 4:30 PM EST on Sunday. Since when is a Sunday afternoon a bad time to show a premium sporting event? People all around the country would have made time on a Sunday afternoon to take in this epic final. I understand NBC’s general strategy, but this decision is an epic fail.

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Ben Johnson in 1988

I remember watching this live in 1988, as Ben Johnson blew away Car Lewis in the stunning 100 meter final. I had bet a friend $20 on the race and was thrilled with the result.

Of course, Ben Johnson cheated with steroids, and he had to surrender his gold medal. Carl Lewis was cheated out of his rightful place on the podium, and I had to return the $20.

When I watch the video again, I’m struck by how Lewis sought out Johnson after the race to congratulate him and Johnson barely acknowledged his. Not only was he a cheater, but he was a classless cheater.

Ryan Lochte wins gold in 400 IM; Phelps finishes fourth

Unless you watched it online, you’ll have to wait until the NBC tape delay tonight to watch it. Ryan Lochte won the Olympic 400-meter individual medley by more than 3 seconds and Michael Phelps finished a disappointing fourth. Phelps won the gold in this event four years ago with a world record time that still stands. Based on that you have to wonder if all the reports about Phelps not training hard enough might be true. He’s not the same swimmer this time around.

Guor Marial gets his Olympic opportunity

This is a cool story that helps put the Olympic Games in perspective. Guor Marial, a refugee from the South Sudan, will be the first athlete to represent his country in London 2012, but he won’t be running under his nation’s flag. He’ll be running as an independent under the Olympics flag.

Do we care if Lance Armstrong doped?

Teammates Tyler Hamilton (L yellow jersey) and Lance Armstrong compete in the last stage of the Dauphine Libere cycling race in Sallanches in this June 11, 2000 file photo. Hamilton, who was allowed to keep his Athens Olympics gold medal despite failing a doping test, has finally confessed to cheating and accused other top cyclists, including Lance Armstrong, of doing the same. In an interview to be aired by “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Hamilton, ended years of denials by finally admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs but insisted he was not alone. REUTERS/Files (FRANCE – Tags: SPORT CYCLING)

In an interview that was shot for “60 Minutes” and broadcasted on “CBS Evening News” on Thursday, Tyler Hamilton said he used performance-enhancing drugs with his former teammate Lance Armstrong.

“I saw (EPO) in his refrigerator…I saw him inject it more than one time,” Hamilton said. “Like we all did. Like I did, many, many times.”

Hamilton told “60 Minutes” reporter Scott Pelley that Armstrong “took what we all took…the majority of the peloton.” Hamilton went onto say that there was “EPO…testosterone…a blood transfusion.”

EPO is a drug that boosts endurance by increasing the number of red blood cells in the body, which obviously would help cyclists like Hamilton and Armstrong. This is now the second time that a former teammate of Armstrong’s has accused him of taking drugs to improve his performance on the bike, as Hamilton’s accusations come one year after Floyd Landis made similar allegations.

People are going to believe what they want to believe, but the fact of the matter is that Armstrong has never tested positive for PEDs. The question in my eyes is do we care?

The thing about performance-enhancing drugs is that they allow an athlete to perform at the absolute best of his abilities. Granted, if I were to juice for a year and tried my hand at professional football, I’d probably get killed – same as I would if I didn’t dope. If your skill level was low to begin with, sorry, but drugs aren’t going to turn you into a professional athlete.

But they will turn a special athlete into a superhero, which is where the problem lies. Barry Bonds was already one of the most gifted baseball players to have ever played the game, which people tend to overlook when his name is brought up. People forget just how good he was before he started taking PEDs, which only made an incredibly gifted athlete perform to the max of his abilities. He could already hit major league pitching, but thanks to the steroids his bat speed never decreased, he was able to hit the ball harder and farther, and was able to keep playing into his 40s.

It’s the same concept with Armstrong. He was already a gifted cyclist. If he took them, all PEDs did was make an already gifted cyclist max out his abilities on the bike (which includes being able to ride faster, longer, etc).

Here’s my take on PEDs: I actually don’t have a problem with athletes using them. I have a problem with the fact that they create an uneven playing field. Guys like Bonds and Armstrong are already special and if they use drugs, then they’re creating an even bigger gap between them and the next guy.

I don’t mind the alpha male when it comes to sports. Tiger Woods has been great for golf for over a decade. Lance Armstrong has been great for cycling. The pure act of watching Barry Bonds hit a home run every 10 at bats in 2001 was fun.

But in the end, I want to see athletes go toe-to-toe with only their God-given abilities and their dedication to their craft at their backs. If Tiger puts on an amazing display to win a major, I want to know that what I watched was an athlete performing at his best not because he was on drugs, but because he was more special than the next guy on that given day. The same goes for Armstrong, Bonds or whomever.

So if Armstrong did dope, he was wrong. Again, I don’t care that the best cyclist in the world used drugs to make himself superhuman. I care that what I witnessed wasn’t natural. I want my sports to be 100 percent pure.

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