Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Drugs In Sports

It comes as no surprise to anyone, anymore when high-profile athletes get busted for drugs. Sports headlines are filled with players testing positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) or having run-ins with the law for illegal substances. This last week has been a terrible week for athletes and drugs.

In the sport of baseball, steroids have dominated the news for years. Names and legacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jose Conseco and so many more will forever be linked to scandals involving steroids. This week we saw two other big name baseball players test positive and get suspended for use of PEDs, namely synthetic testosterone. Melky Cabrera of the Giants and Bartolo Colon of the A’s both received 50-game suspensions for testing positive to the banned substance.
Whenever players get busted for such substances in the sport of baseball it spurs on a lot more talk and speculation about other players in the sport. ESPN analyst (or clown, depends on what you think of him), Skip Bayless alluded this week that he believed that the only way Derek Jeter is playing so well in the twilight of his career is because of the use of PEDs. We may never know but I do believe that it goes without being said, that there are rampant steroid, testosterone and PED problems in the game of baseball.

But is baseball the only sport with such problems?

What seems like such a simple questions tends to start varying arguments. There have been cases of juicing in professional football, cycling and even Olympic athletes. These cases tend to be smaller or somewhat brushed aside by the media but have happened.

One particular case that hasn’t been brushed aside by the media is the case of Lance Armstrong. Believed by many to be the best cyclist of all time, and even some would claim the best athlete of all time, Armstrong has been battling claims of steroid use for years and years. After winning 7 Tour de France titles, battling cancer and running one of the most successful athlete-run foundations, Armstrong has been held in high esteem his entire career. Yet claims that he was using PEDs have somewhat altered the trajectory of his legacy.

Armstrong had been fighting against the USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) for quite some time when Thursday night he called it quits. He said he would not fight the claims any more. He never fully confessed guilt but that is the way it is being judged by the general population. The USADA will strip Armstrong of his titles and he will be banned from the sport of cycling for life.

Despite this trouble, no one can take from Armstrong what he has done to inspire people worldwide through his foundation or just his story alone.

Performance Enhancing Drugs are not the only type of drugs that athletes find themselves getting in trouble with. In fact, in a lot of sports steroids seem to be almost completely absent. In the sport of basketball, for instance, there has been very little talk of these performance enhancing drugs. Why?

Gerald Green of the Indiana Pacers was quoted saying, “Steroids make you too big, you need to be fluid to play basketball. You’d be too slow if you used steroids in the NBA. Honestly I don’t think steroid use happens in basketball at all.”

This isn’t to say that the game of basketball is necessarily a clean and wholesome sport, full of role models and upstanding citizens. Basketball is a sport riddled with marijuana use and players getting DUIs. The people here in Portland are all too familiar with such circumstances.

Throughout the “Jail Blazer” era, the local sports media was plastered almost daily with a new drug arrest. Literally, there were multiple players arrested for possession of marijuana. Some even tried to get through airport security with their “calming medicine” wrapped in tin foil.

I am not saying that anyone is perfect and I am really not trying to be the moral police for professional athletes, they will do what they want, because they have been blessed with the money and ability to have access to anything. But that is exactly my point. As members of the media, sports fans, or even really coaches of the teams, there is very little that can be done to alter these athletes’ decisions.

Yes, the media can go on and on about certain players and scandals. Yes, fans could boycott games or even certain products. Yes, coaches and organizations could fine, suspend or trade a player. But we have seen over and over again that these things don’t happen, and if they do, they don’t factor into the decision making of the athletes.

The only thing I really wish for in a time like this is for a little perspective. These athletes live in a whole different world than the rest of us. They get paid more, live in better neighborhoods and have access to things the masses don’t have. A lot of fans see them as gods, heroes, idols but really they are just entitled individuals that will make decisions for themselves, no matter what you think.

So next time a steroid scandal rips through the local or national news, just remember that these athletes are part of a sport that is for our entertainment. Don’t get wrapped up in the scandal and investigation. It really means nothing. Just flip to the next channel and watch the game that’s on, and don’t worry about who is and who isn’t juicing.

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