That Lance Armstrong finally came clean to Oprah about his dirty play is perhaps on some level a relief to all. The cloud of suspicion over his head was getting quite dark and gray. Lance however, is not alone in his efforts to push the boundary on what is humanly possible to achieve in athletics. Baseball has of course had it's share of cheaters.
At a time when we celebrate records being broken with such fanfare, what a let down to realize some of these achievements were accomplished in less than honest ways. What lessons are teaching, what behavior are we modeling when some of today's top athletes come clean and admit they used artificial means to achieve their goals?
Olympians including athletes Michael Phelps and Gabrielle Douglas are shinning examples however, of the power of hard work, commitment and a lot of ambition. Such individuals remind us what athletic success is really about. It is indeed humbling to know that being the best doesn’t need to require smoke, mirrors, and performance enhancing substances.
Such situations as Lance’s confession provide us with opportunities to have interactive discussions with our tweens and teens. These discussions offer our kids a forum in which to express their own opinions. This can be an empowering experience for them. It is important to ask them what they think about athletes who use performance enhancing substances. If your tween or teen is an athlete it is an especially relevant discussion. Refrain from interrupting if you want to hear about their thoughts and feelings on the subject. Sometimes their opinions can be surprising.
When athletes cheat by using performance enhancing drugs they not only send the wrong message to our kids about how to get ahead in sports, they make disturbing suggestions about how to be successful in life. It is up to us to make sure our kids receive the correct messages about how the world should work.
It is important to highlight the consequences that come when athletes behave badly. Lance Armstrong will no longer be known as a cancer survivor who beat the odds but as an athlete who cheated in order to claim victory. Similarly, the ball players who have come forward and confirmed their own use of drugs to enhance their performances will not be recognized for their talent as athletes but as cheaters who tried to play the system. Honesty and hard work matter. There is perhaps nothing more exciting than watching your own child score that first goal, or make the game winning play. We reinforce the gravity of these achievements when recognize the effort and skill our kids demonstrated in order to achieve them.
No matter whether your tween or teen is bound for the NFL. WNBA, Olympics or simply the neighborhood championship, the knowledge that he or she got there due to determination, hard work, and skill will make his/her victories that much sweeter.