Medina Spirit won the Kentucky Derby last month – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's record seventh Derby win. Or did he? The winning horse failed a drug test, confirmed recently by a second test. The New York Racing Association promptly suspended Baffert in order to "protect the integrity of the sport," followed swiftly with Churchill Downs suspending him for two years. Not surprisingly, litigation ensued.
The trainer now joins an infamous list of sports cheaters. Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa blasting steroid-enhanced home runs. Lance Armstrong blood doping his way through seven consecutive Tour de France "wins." The 2017 Astros stealing signs en route to a tarnished World Series championship. Rosie Ruiz jumping on the subway to hijack the women's title in the 1980 Boston Marathon.
Cheating is not the unique province of sports. Baffert's conduct is reminiscent of the recent college admissions scandal, dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues" by the FBI, which ensnared wealthy parents and Hollywood glitterati bribing their kids' way into certain "elite" colleges. Indictments handed down. Guilty pleas entered. Prison sentences served. Reputations ruined.
The Baffert and Varsity Blues scandals reminded me of a visit to the Intrepid Museum in New York City with my father-in-law, Angelo. The museum's centerpiece is the USS Intrepid, a WWII aircraft carrier, with the added attractions of the space shuttle Enterprise and British Airways Concorde Alpha Delta G-BOAD, the plane which crossed the Atlantic in 2 hours, 52 minutes and 59 seconds.
Angelo had both fought in WWII and flown on the Concorde for business. As a result, a visit to this museum was doubly meaningful to him. Part of the Concorde tour included boarding the plane and sitting in the seats for a brief presentation on its fabled history. When the presentation concluded, the tour guide asked those in the group who had flown on a Concorde to raise their hands. He then asked the three or four Concorde fliers what they stole as a souvenir after their respective flights. He said "everyone, even celebrities, took something," including linen napkins, salt shakers, embroidered pillows and champagne flutes. Perhaps Billy Joel had this in mind when he sang "honesty is such a lonely word. Everyone is so untrue."
The tour guide was aghast as Angelo responded "nothing." A few tour participants skeptically shook their heads. When pressed by the tour guide to explain how this could be, Angelo said "because it did not belong to me." A breathtakingly simple concept, but hard for some people to grasp. I knew his answer before it was spoken aloud, and I sensed disappointment in the tour guide with the response.
Honesty is not, and should not be, a lonely word, but if it were, try to keep it company!
Carl Ficks helps athletes and aspiring athletes set and achieve their goals. He once could not run two miles without stopping, but has since run and cycled thousands of miles and competed in dozens of road and bike races of all shapes, sizes and distances, from three to 100 miles. Carl moved to Berlin in the 4th grade but later ran away to practice law in New Britain for many years. He's also a proud member of The Generale Ameglio Society. When you're ready to get back in the game, go to carlficks.com.