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A talk with the children about steroids

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A “bad joke,” Scot Pollard? Perhaps it’s wise advice!

From time to time an intrepid reporter will go talk to The Children to see if they will wag stubby little fingers at pro athletes would dare take performance-enhancing drugs. The latest is Kyle Finck of the New York Daily News in a story subtly (for a New York tabloid) titled “The Clubhouse of Lies.” He asked 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds with the Bronx’s Outsiders Baseball Association (whom the News has followed all season) whether they believe steroids are a big problem in baseball. Fourteen out of 21 said, “Yes.”

“Steroids have affected the way I view the game,” said starting pitcher Felipe Gutierrez. “Now I don’t know who is hitting a home run for real.”

With players such as [Manny] Ramirez being caught taking performance-enhancing drugs, many players expressed anger towards their favorite players-turned-cheaters.

Starting shortstop Fernando Gomez’s favorite player is Manny. “When I think about my favorite players, I think about all the hard work they put in; that gives them my respect,” Gomez says. “When I find out they took steroids, I just feel dumb and let down for believing in them.”

Oh, poor, innocent children, robbed of their heroes by the knowledge their home runs were shot up their ass with a needle. Finck’s story comes in the context of Major League Baseball spending $10 million on an anti-PED program I like to call, “Don’t Believe Your Eyes and the Reported Contract Numbers, Kid.  Drugs are Bad.”

The Los Angeles Dodgers and the general baseball establishment (including ESPN) rolling out the red carpet for Ramirez upon his return from a 50-game suspension for taking HCG (used to come down from a steroid cycle, and also present if the pregnancy test stick turns blue) belies any pittance MLB spends as a masking agent for its own steroid problem.

But, really, why should we be uptight about drugs if MLB really isn’t? The truth is, children, if you ever wanted to be an elite athlete, or remain one, taking performance-enhancing drugs historically has been practically a given.

A few years ago, a great writer at MSNBC.com made this point by bringing up numerous past examples of drug usage, and suggestions from academic papers on how perhaps regulating rather than banning PED consumption might help make for healthier athletes:

The first report of performance-enhancing drugs in sport came from the Olympics — in the third century B.C. (Philostratus and Galerius, the Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams of the ancient Greeks, noted how athletes juiced up with extracts from mustard and plant seeds.) Englishman Thomas Hicks won the 1904 Olympic marathon thanks to a mid-race shot of strychnine, a common performance-enhancing drug for endurance athletes of the era, thanks to its ability to tighten muscles. (Hicks also had some raw eggs with a brandy chaser.)

Athletes of the 1970s weren’t the first to use cocaine to give themselves a burst of energy in the grind of a long season — athletes of the early 20th century did, too. About one hundred years before famous Seattle musicians killed themselves with it, boxers used heroin as a pre-fight painkiller.

Also, it’s not as if sports is in a vacuum. There’s barely any sector of society that doesn’t feature people giving themselves a little extra something to get an edge. Various studies show rampant use of Adderall, Ritalin and other drugs normally used for attention deficit disorder instead applied toward all-night cramming sessions. The classical-music world wrestles with the ethics of using Inderal, an anti-anxiety drug, to fight stage fright, particularly before gut-wrenching auditions for coveted symphony jobs. The U.S. military’s accidental bombing of Canadian forces in Afghanistan [seven] years ago put a spotlight on pilots being given amphetamines to fight off sleep so they could perform long missions. And Starbucks has made quite a living out of providing a little caffeine jolt to help the masses get the energy to make it through the drudgery of another workday.

Not to mention that according to the ads that air during any sporting event, performance-enhancing drugs are also necessary if you want a working peener after age 50.

And that’s all just scratching the surface of how athletes use PEDs, or how we in the non-athletic world do as well. Kids, the problem with steroids is that you’re not being told the truth: for all the hard work and time you put in, someday you’re going to go up against someone with a chemistry set back home — and lose.

From the MSNBC.com piece:

“We have two choices: to vainly try to turn the clock back, or to rethink who we are, and what sport is,” Oxford University applied ethics professor Julian Savulescu wrote in 2004, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. He argued that sports should throw in the towel on zero tolerance and allow doctors to administer careful and measured doses of whatever to elite athletes. Hey, what’s the moral difference between laser-vision correction and a little hormone treatment?

“Performance enhancement is not against the spirit of sport; it is the spirit of sport,” Savulescu wrote. “To choose to be better is to be human. Athletes should be the given this choice. Their welfare should be paramount. But taking drugs is not necessarily cheating.”

I’m not saying that it’s time to fill soccer fields with five-year-olds who have SpongeBob bandages on their behinds from the shot they got from Dr. Feelgood that morning. I’m not saying anyone should use PEDs, especially because right know only God and Victor Conte know what they’re made of. But at some point parents and kids need to ask themselves — if taking a PED is the difference between becoming an elite athlete or not, should the PED be taken?

By the way, Finck’s teen-aged subjects didn’t collectively wag their fingers over PEDs:

While some players expressed frustration, many others accepted performance-enhancing drugs as part of the game. Victor Figueroa, the Outsiders’ star catcher believes that “steroids have made baseball more interesting, challenging, and intense.”

Similarly, first baseman Matthew Barnes seemingly embraces what performance enhancers bring to the game. “Everyone goes to a game to see magic (big hits),” says Barnes. “Bringing steroids to the game just hypes it up.”

Written by rkcookjr

July 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm

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