YES, I SAID ROLE MODEL
I know the CW is that, "athletes shouldn't be role models." And that's true to some extent. I shouldn't have a child out of wedlock, then marry the mother of that child, then divorce her 10 years later because Michael Jordan did the same thing and had success in basketball.
What we can do is model aspects of behavior. Marhall Faulk is successful in part becuase he spends hours preparing for his opposition, and knows how they'll react to situations. How can I be more like that? Jerry Rice has kept himself in superb physical condition so he continues to be a great player at an age long past when most wide recievers are effective. What can I learn form that?
I think when we get into trouble is when parents start using "role models" as a short cut to get their kids to do something. So they'll say something like "Mark McGwire eats his broccoli," and then when it comes out that Mark McGwire took andro, thes parents feel betrayed. But I don't remember McGwire ever encouraging kids to model his private behavior. Parents decided to do that for themselves, and it backfired on them. That's unfortunate, but I don't think it's completely McGwire's responsibility when he's been co-opted like that.