When Character Breaks Down

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Another day, another professional athlete making headlines for all of the wrong reasons. And why, because they wanted to take a shortcut to achieve victory. Former World number one women’s tennis player Maria Sharapova recently announced that she failed a drug test at the Australian Open after testing positive for Meldonium, a substance that has been banned since the beginning of the year because it is believed to help athletes’ endurance and rehabilitation.

Sharapova openly confessed that she did not review the list of newly banned substances for 2016 from the World Anti-Doping Agency, and failed the drug test because of ‘ignorance.’ In my book, The Win Within – Capturing Your Victorious Spirit, there is a chapter entitled Fair Play: Values and Standards to Live By. The impetus for my writing this chapter was the precipitous falls of ‘superstars’ such as Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire. They too pleaded ‘ignorance’ instead of accountability. As a result, they cheated the game, their teammates, peers and most importantly, themselves.

Now, this isn’t the first time nor will it be the last that we bear witness to athletes pleading ignorance during an impromptu press conference in their attempt to defuse negative publicity. In fact, the more of these press conferences I watch and read about the less I believe these athletes are showing the type of contrition and accountability that comes with true character. Instead, they appear to be carefully reading scripted statements designed to save their multi-million-dollar endorsement deals rather than taking the opportunity to speak from the heart and teach their young fans that character counts – even, or perhaps especially when – you’ve made a mistake.

From Lance Armstrong to baseball’s steroid age and plenty before and after, cheaters often think they’re above reproach. But they aren’t. Their fall from grace is just from a much higher platform. The serious doping allegations against Armstrong and his subsequent lack of sincerity have tarnished the image of this American athlete. Both Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire lacked the character to be truly victorious, and their legacies will be forever overshadowed by their devastating descent into disgrace rather than their true talent. The use of performance-enhancing drugs goes against all of the core values that are the characteristics of the victorious spirit. The purest form of competition and performance lies within the process and your ability to embrace it both emotionally and physically. Your character and physical skill will be both tempted and tested, but those who remain true and resolute will find their Win Within.

The victorious spirit is not something we can achieve through cheating. In order to fully grasp it, we must persevere through turmoil and stick to a set of strong values that help us weather the storm.
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