By Darasimi Oshodi
Lance Armstrong, Oscar Pistorius, Aaron Hernandez. Why are superstars falling from grace to grass? Pistorius’ and Hernandez’s cases are still in court so it is subjudice, using the legal parlance, meaning one cannot make any conclusive statement on them, at least not in public. The sports world was shaken earlier this year when Armstrong admitted that he had been using drugs for a very long time despite repeated denials. He admitted he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins. During his confession, which he made to Oprah Winfrey, one of America’s top show hosts, he said, “I view this situation as one big lie I repeated a lot of times. I made those decisions, they were my mistake and I’m here to say sorry.”
One question that probably has been running through the minds of sports followers/lovers is why our revered sports heroes fall from their place of exaltation to great depths of ignominy. Why do people we have come to admire and hero worship turn out to be pretenders, hypocrites and at times criminals or lawbreakers? These individuals were once stars who were famous because of their dazzling sports career but due to crucial errors in judgment and sometimes, persistent ill habits, their names and careers have been tarnished. Check this short list:
Tiger Woods: Top golfer and former champion Tiger Woods was charged with infidelity and extra-marital affair. The scandal cost him his marriage and sponsors. It is believed he had extra-marital affairs with as many as 17 women. Woods accepted that he was a sex-addict and was admitted to re-hab. Only recently has he managed to get a few sponsors back though his form remains shaky on the golf course.
Mike Tyson: A former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion who had the record of knocking down his opponent in the first 91 seconds of the fight. He was arrested for rape and was later sentenced to six years in prison followed by four years of probation. Apart from rape, he has been embroiled in different controversies but his most remembered controversy was when he bit both ears off Evander Holyfield during a match.
Ben Johnson: Johnson tested positive for performance enhancing drugs after winning the 100 metres sprint at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and was forced to give up his medal. He later admitted to having used the banned substance the previous year at the World Championship and was stripped of that title as well. He attempted to stage a return but failed another test and was banned for life.
Marion Jones finished with three gold medals and two bronze at the Sydney 2000 Olympics, a feat that had never been done. But Jones was stripped of her medals after she admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs. After the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Jones was accused of taking steroids by her ex-husband, among others. Tests proved nothing but Jones confessed to lying to federal agents about her drug use. She returned the five medals she had won and was also handed a six month prison sentence. She had been accused of using illicit substances from her school days. As if that was not enough, she was also accused of being part of a check-counterfeiting scheme linked to her former coach, Steve Riddick, her sports agent Charles Wells, and her ex-boyfriend, Tim Montgomery.
The stories related above are sad because the characters involved were, at one time, on top of the world but came crashing down and even out of our consciousness. What must have caused this? Simply put, lack of character. All of these sport stars either lacked character or lost their character at a point. They got to the top but could not stay at the top. At different times and fora, I have heard that ability/talent can take you to the top but character will keep you there. This is indeed true of the characters in the aforementioned stories and many other celebrated personalities who have been disgraced. The absence of character has caused many to fall from grace to grass in all spheres of life. The list is endless.
So what is character? Character is much more than just what we try to display for others to see, it is who we are even when no one is watching. Good character is doing the right thing because it is right to do what is right. People without character live hypocritical lives. The personality they present to people is different from what they are in their closet. And eventually their secrets are exposed bringing them great opprobrium. There is a saying in Yoruba land, where I come from, that character is like smoke and that no matter how hard one tries to hide it, it will eventually be detected
From these stories, I have again learned that character is essential and must be maintained at all times. While we all have our weaknesses, we must ensure to deal with them. Why? The weakness we don’t deal with will deal with us. The vice that we don’t overcome will overcome us and may disgrace us. If we must stay at the top, we must maintain good character. As we enter the year 2014, let’s check ourselves and identify weaknesses that we need to deal with and then go ahead and deal with them.
P.S: I pray that justice will be rightly dispensed in the Oscar Pistorius’ case.