They finally did it. Yesterday the International Cycling Union officially stripped Lance Armstrong of all of his wins back to August 1998, including his seven Tour de France titles. While Lance claims he never failed a test, there was certainly enough evidence from those who rode with him to show that he and others were engaged in a systematic effort to dope. They all wanted to win, and they were all doing everything they could to do to win. Is there anything wrong with that?
We are always looking for an edge. People drink coffee and Red Bull. They pop Adderall pills. Kids in China have even gotten IV drips while studying for the national college entrance exam. Within a certain limit (and I'm not sure whether IV drips are within this limit) this is all more-or-less considered okay. There is no punishment for real world 'doping'. You'll never hear of an instance where a bank loses a deal because the analyst had too much in his system. One could probably argue that juicing the analysts helps win pitches.
So why is it then that in the regular world looking for advantages over one's peers is welcomed and encouraged, while frowned upon in sports? And even in sports, the punishment depends on what your discipline is. How does it make sense that A-Rod uses steroids and gets off scot-free, but Lance does basically the same thing and gets tarred and feathered for it?
Nothing in life is fair, but in this one area --sports-- we try to make it just that. But even then it isn't fair. There are continual advances in nutritional science, newer racing techniques are figured out, and better gear is invented. All of this factors into a victory. Lance won because he figured out the formula to winning better than his competitors. How is having a better engineered bike fundamentally different than putting a chemical in one's system? Do they not both provide an advantage?
I doubt many of us are professional cyclists. But we are professional investment bankers, traders, researchers, etc. We like to win and we do what it takes to achieve victory. Sometimes that means venturing in to gray areas. For some, that can also mean going well beyond the gray area.
What would you do to win? Is there a line that you wouldn't cross? Why not?