Performance-enhancing drugs tarnish the modern athlete

Athletes have always been the beloved heroes who provide us with a silver lining, a hope that the game can be mastered without the use of artificial enhancers.

In the past couple decades, performance-enhancing drugs have become notorious for boosting individual athlete's stats and deteriorating the meaning of fair play.

What is to be done when our sports idols are the ones getting caught with their hand in the cookie jar?

Recent dethroned heroes include USA Olympic track star Marion Jones, baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez, and Tour de France winner Floyd Landis. Jones was once viewed as the best woman athlete in the world, taking home seven medals in track and field in the 2000 Olympics. A-Rod is on track to become the all-time home-run holder in the history of Major League Baseball.

In 2006, Floyd Landis was the improbable winner in the Tour de France and represented the toughness of American cycling.

This is where the asterisk comes into play. PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) have haunted these charismatic sports heroes, and their achievements have been tarnished as a result. Marion Jones was stripped of her medals and sent to jail for six months. Alex Rodriguez may get the asterisk next to his accomplishments in the record books for using drugs, presuming he breaks them. Lastly, Floyd Landis was disgraced and stripped of his Tour de France title for blood doping, shocking the cycling world as an unprecedented event in the race's 107-year history.

Landis has recently taken his experience with blood doping a bit further, speaking out and accusing multiple riders of doping as well, including the Tour de France legend and Livestrong founder Lance Armstrong. If it wasn't before, cycling's credibility as a sport is spiraling downward. If the alleged accusations about Armstrong, the inspirational and beloved testicular cancer survivor, prove true, it would be a disaster not only for the sport of cycling, but for athletes in every arena.

Honestly, it would come as no surprise. Athletes have continuously proven to be more than their self-proclaimed role model status. America's heartstrings were tugged when Michael Phelps was caught smoking marijuana at a party in 2009 and when Tiger Woods made international news with his affair last November. PEDs offer yet another way for athletes to let us down.

Some would argue in defense of the athletes, protesting that they're under a lot of pressure to succeed. Who isn't? Athlete or not, people are pressured to succeed at what they do every day. It's the way that top athletes are supposed to compose themselves in pressure situations that allegedly sets them apart from the rest.

ESPN recorded International Cycling Union (UCI) president Pat McQuaid says on the doping matter: "If they've any love for the sport they wouldn't do it." Words have never rang more true, as athletes need to recognize their status as role models for children around the world and execute their actions accordingly. The solution lies not in the hands of new drug testing technology to eliminate usage, but in the hearts of athletes who are committed to a pure work ethic and honest competition.