Heroes or villains | TheUnion.com

Heroes or villains

The Milwaukee Brewers' Ryan Braun reacts while holding his elbow after missing his swing during a game against the Nationals Sept. 21, 2012, in Washington. Braun, a former National League MVP, has been suspended without pay for the rest of the season and admitted he "made mistakes" in violating Major Leauge Baseball's drug policies.
Associated Press | AP

“With great power there must also come great responsibility.”

Originally written by Voltaire but made popular here in the U.S. by Stan Lee and the Spiderman comics, this phrase seems appropriate in the wake of the latest “superstar” to admit to using performance enhancing drugs.

Milwaukee Brewers slugger and 2011 MLB MVP Ryan Braun is the most recent domino to fall in what has been a decade of revelations that the top-tier athletes in the world that have reigned since the ’80s have been getting some extra and illegal help.

Braun now joins the likes of Lance Armstrong, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Floyd Landis, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettite, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi and many more in shame and dishonor for cheating their sport and the public’s perception of them.

What stings more is the way Braun vehemently denied the allegations in 2011, claiming that the sample must have been tampered with. He attacked another man, lashing out at a lab technician for tampering with his sample, knowing full well that he was guilty. Braun went as far as to say, “I would bet my life that substance never entered my body,”

Well, it’s time to pay up. It won’t cost him his life, just 65 games.

I feel for those who looked up to Braun, those who saw him as a role model, a leader and an example to strive for.

I remember how I felt when I realized what my baseball idol, Bonds, had done. All those years and all those cheers for a cheater and a liar.

Not cheating is one of those early life lessons that we learn as children. Cheaters are despised characters in life, and we all grow up with a distaste for cheaters.

Whether it be books, movies or a schoolyard game, the cheaters are ostracized for their actions. They are called out in the name of justice and all that is good.

That is what makes the lying that accompanies the cheating even worse. Like Armstrong, Braun pointed fingers at everyone but himself. Now that the evidence is overwhelming, they ask for forgiveness and understanding.

Well, it’s too late. Braun should have taken a page from Giambi’s book. Yup, that’s right Giambi. After he was caught cheating, he accepted his punishment and has since carved out a nice back end of his career.

But for you, Braun, you will forever be a cheater and a liar who threw another man under the bus and, in the fallout, has let down thousands if not millions of fans.

And that old Charles Barkley ad where he professes, “I am not a role model,” does not and cannot apply to superstar athletes. Whether you like it or not, when you sign that contract, accept millions of dollars and collect on endorsement deals and jersey sales, you are a role model.

Elite athletes, whom fans once saw as superheroes, are now the villains and for the past 30 years they had been winning.

But the times are changing. Science along with the berth of a new skepticism is beginning to make a dent in the once-rampant drug use.

But I do worry about the fallout from the “Steroid Era.” With so many greats in a wide breadth of sports being toppled by doping allegations and subsequent revelations, what message has been sent and how has it been received?

Will this past decade of PED enlightenment be just the beginning of a race among scientists — some devising tests to catch dopers and others conjuring PEDs that beat the test, as Detroit Tigers All-Star outfielder Torii Hunter recently theorized.

“I’m pretty sure Braunie won’t be the last,” Hunter said. “It’s going to be for the next 100 years, somebody’s going to try to beat the system, and as long as they keep catching guys, the system works.”

Or will this be the beginning of the end of a sad and disappointing era in sports, a wake-up call that mends the competitive and ethical fibers of sports that have been so badly strained. We can only hope it’s the latter.

To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email wford@theunion.com.

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