Stop us if you've heard this one before.
Jose Canseco and Ben Johnson walk into a Manhattan hotel conference room to speak out against using performance-enhancing drugs. They look to the audience and ask, "Hey, where's Lance Armstrong?" Through the crickets, a voice echoes, "He was invited, but though how ridiculous this whole thing is."
And yet, that's pretty much what happened Wednesday.
Johnson and Canseco, two of the most notorious dopers in sports history, called together the media to talk about the perils of PEDs and pitch themselves as two of sports' greatest truth-tellers on the subject. According to the New York Times , fewer than two dozen people showed up, most of the reporters. And Armstrong -- the most disgraced doper of them all -- was invited to talk with the two former athletes, but declined to participate.
So what could create such a surreal gathering? It was all part of an effort by Swiss clothing company Skins to promote its online petition to reduce doping in sports.
Among the "highlights" of the steroid symposium:
- Johnson, 51, said that he knows exactly why athletes take performance-enhancing drugs, and that he suspects most runners are still doing it a quarter-century after he was caught and stripped of his 100-meter gold at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics. "The money is great. The pressure is great," Johnson said Wednesday. "People want to make money, buy a car, big houses, dress good, travel, do everything to win. This is the world that we live in."
- The Canadian former sprinter says he hopes he will be remembered for more than a failed drug test, and wants to combine his experience and knowledge of modern training techniques, legal supplements and nutrition, to show young athletes they can compete clean and run just as fast as the cheats. "If you believe in that, you eat properly, train properly, get enough rest, don't drink," he said, "you can achieve your goal and not use performance-enhancing drugs. It can be done."
- Canseco, the 49-year-old former slugger / reality TV star / serial celeb dater who is actually recognized as one of the first true whistleblowers of baseball's steroid problem with his book , hinted, according to the Times, "that he be given carte blanche to enter major league clubhouses to talk to players about doping. 'It will never happen,' he said."
Skins called the conference as high-profile positive tests keep on coming. The past several months alone, the big names in sprinting to test positive included Tyson Gay and Veronica Campbell-Brown. And in baseball, Yankees star Alex Rodriguez is in the process of appealing his suspension through the conclusion of the 2014 season as part of the Biogenesis scandal.
In an interview after the panel, Johnson said, "There's nothing new."
"The excuses have all run out," he added.
And even if he understands why athletes still make the same choices he did, he has a simple reasoning for why they shouldn't.
"This is the temptation that we face every day in life," Johnson said, noting that people are able to resist those other urges to cheat.
-- The Associated Press contributed to this report