Taylor Hooton Foundation > Hoot’s Corner > General > Brennan: Lance Armstrong's ruination now a teaching tool
January 14, 2015
Brennan: Lance Armstrong's ruination now a teaching tool
It was two years ago this week that Lance Armstrong finally admitted that he was a cheater, triggering the swiftest and most-deserved ruination of a career and a reputation in modern times. The former seven-time Tour de France winner estimated he lost $75 million the day all his sponsors dropped him. The public turned on him faster than it has ever turned on any worldwide hero in sports, or for that matter, in our culture. He went from international cancer savior to infamous public pariah in the time it took him to come clean in Oprah Winfrey’s opening salvo of six yes-or-no questions. Since then, thankfully, Armstrong has mostly faded away. He pays legal fees, battles lawsuits, downsizes his life and plays a lot of golf. Funny, a game built on honor, welcoming the likes of Armstrong.
He is welcome almost nowhere else in the world of sports. He is gone. He is forgotten. Who among us has even thought of him recently? One man has. Don Hooton is president of the Taylor Hooton Foundation, named for the 17-year-old son he lost to suicide after he took anabolic steroids in 2003. It’s a national organization based in Texas dedicated to raising the awareness of the dangers of performance-enhancing drugs among young people from middle school through college. At a time when an alarming 7% of high school students admit to using anabolic steroids, and an equally stunning 11% of high school students admit to using synthetic human growth hormone, according to a recent national study from the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, Hooton finds great educational value in Armstrong’s epic fall from grace. “He is the example that we use to show kids what happens to you when you cheat,” Hooton said in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon. “We do about 250 events a year, and have talked to about 1 million people since we started, and we use Lance’s picture 100 % of the time. “He’s the ultimate poster child that I hope will show kids that in the end, you pay the price for your behavior. Cheating and lying ultimately catches up to you. We use him and (disgraced Olympian) Marion Jones and other culprits as examples of what happens when you try to cut corners and wind up getting yourself in trouble. Everyone we talk to knows Lance. There’s never, ever, ever a positive reaction to him.” Those percentages of high school kids trying performance-enhancing drugs are astonishingly high and extremely troubling. Considering that less than 1% of Olympians are found to use illegal substances, the percentages of PED abuse for high school students – both boys and girls – signal an epidemic in American life. “It’s huge,” Hooton said, “and those are the ones who admit it.” Hooton knows exactly where young athletes, both male and female, get the idea to build their bodies with illegal substances. “I think it all goes back to athletes like Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Marion Jones,” he said. “This group of role models sent a message to these kids that cheating is the way to reach the pinnacle in sports. It’s a sad, sad story that most people, including parents, don’t even realize has happened.” This certainly is one of the most under-reported stories not only in sports, but in society. So Hooton presses on. To fight the good fight, he relies on the most unlikely accomplices.
“The odds of catching these kids using performance-enhancing drugs are slim and none,” Hooton said. “The only tool we have is education. The only message that gets through to the kids is: ‘You’re going to pay a huge price, like Lance Armstrong.’ “The more punitive the measures against Armstrong, the more it looks like he is suffering, the more that kids see that, it really does make the point.” So, happy second anniversary, Lance. Here’s hoping every kid in America hears all about it. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2015/01/14/lance-armstrong-cheating-cyclist-tour-de-france-christine-brennan/21779329/