For the last several weeks, professional athletes have been on the first page of newspapers as much as in the sports pages. Some news stories are about extraordinary careers. Others are about athletes behaving badly.
Professional baseball players Cal Ripken and Tony Gywnn are among the heroes.
They were admitted into the Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday at a ceremony in Cooperstown, New York. About 75,000 fans gathered there to celebrate. Both men spoke about the importance of the public image of athletes. Gwynn said professional baseball was about more than just playing. He said players need to do the right thing for all the fans who love the sport. Ripken said players are behavior models whether they like it or not. He said the only question is whether they will be good ones or bad ones.
The speeches followed weeks of legal charges, accusations and investigations involving sports professionals. In baseball, Barry Bonds is two homeruns away from breaking the record set by Hank Aaron in 1976. Bonds' success has renewed accusations that he used banned performance-improving drugs. However, Bonds has never failed a drug test nor has he been charged with any crime.
Similar accusations of banned drug use also took place at the Tour de France bicycle race last month. Several riders tested positive for a performance-improving drug. And, in the final week of the race, the leading cyclist Michael Rasmussen of Denmark was expelled on suspicion of taking banned drugs.
The International Cycling Union said there were more cases of doping in the Tour de France this year because there was more testing.
An American professional football player is also in the news. Last week, Michael Vick told a court in Richmond, Virginia, he was not guilty of charges connected to an illegal dog-fighting business. The charges include extreme cruelty to animals.
Federal investigators say they found fight dogs and other evidence on Michael Vick's property in Virginia earlier this year. A defendant who pled guilty in the case has agreed to speak against Vick in court in return for a lesser sentence. Several sporting goods companies that had paid Vick for the use of his name have ended their business relationship with him. And an animal rights group, the Humane Society, is urging the National Football League to suspend Vick from play.
Finally, some bad news in professional basketball. United States federal officials are investigating former National Basketball Association referee Tim Donaghy. The referee enforces the rules and keeps order in the game. He can stop play if he calls a violation by a player and turn the ball over to the opposing team. Donaghy is being investigated for betting money on basketball games, including some in which he was a referee.He resigned last month.
And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Caty Weaver. I’m Steve Ember.