Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Victor Troicki, Lee Chong Wei, Justin Gatlin, Lance Armstrong.
They are all cheaters, according to world doping authorities.
Their bad luck was that they were exposed while they were at the top, unlike probably hundreds or thousands of others who are still struggling but outrunning drug testers with the help of crooked coaches, doctors and other professionals who simply strayed from the straight path.
Johnson and Jones (track and field) and Armstrong (cycling) all paid dearly for using illegal drugs to advance their athletic careers and fatten their bank accounts, and to you-know-what with their honest rivals, or at least those who have not been caught yet.
Troicki (tennis), Lee (badminton) and Gatlin (also track and field) were made to serve their suspensions for doping and are back with apparent vengeance.
All three seemed to have resurrected their interrupted sporting lives with notable victories to their names a few months after being “welcomed” back to the court and the stadium.
In the eyes of “clean” competitors, however, Armstrong, in particular, is an embarrassment, if not a shame, to fair play.
The irony of it all is that the American cyclist—a seven-time, consecutive Tour de France champion (1998-2004)—is also back near the very same place where he began his “legendary” rise to the top not only of the biking world but also that of the underdog (battle with cancer, lack of a father by his side when he was growing up in Texas, etc.).
A few days ago, Armstrong was reported to be near Paris for an event that looked like to be related to cycling.
The report did not say anything about the Texan being treated like a pariah, and there was also no mention of Armstrong being told by Tour de France organizers to stay away from the iconic cycling classic, whose 2015 edition is winding up this week or early next week.
Apparently, notoriety does not necessarily breed contempt.
On the contrary, in the case of the American “icon,” it has added another footnote to the legend that he once was.
But Armstrong has a lot to explain to Robert Hatch and William Hatch, his fellow but younger Americans from Utah.
Robert, now 25, and William, now 31, wrote the book “The Hero Project” when they were between the ages of 11 and 14.
One of the heroes whom the Hatch brothers featured was Lance Armstrong (now 44).
In the Q and A format of the book, Robert asked the then-already famous cyclist, “Mr. Armstrong, may we ask you a couple of questions? How do you want to be remembered?
The reply was, “Quite honestly, I don’t care about having a long-term legacy. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that I think it would be incredibly arrogant to walk through my day thinking about it. That’s not why I get up every morning.”
Armstrong, eventually, did have such legacy, but perhaps not the one he had in mind.
Now, he really owes the Hatches an explanation.
Then, he could ride again and perhaps his severest critics would give him a second chance in that after everything he had done to the sport, there is catharsis in forgiving.