| Steroids in
Hockey not immune to the
12/6/04 - by Fred Begun
the lack of anything NHL to talk about, because I am not really interested that
the NHLPA invited the NHL to come to talk after over 3 months of nothing, let's
continue to talk about sports in general. We have not heard much about steroids
in hockey. I presume that this is because of the wholesome influence of Canada,
In the San Francisco Bay Area, we cannot help but to feel the
adrenaline flush from the BALCO inquiries. Now Jason Giambi has come out and
admitted he used a variety of steroids . . . big surprise! Giambi claims to
have received the steroids from Greg Anderson, one of Barry Bonds personal
friends and trainers. Reports on Bonds' testimony suggest he used some things,
but didn't know they were steroids. Yeah, right. This does beg the question,
how should we view the use of steroids or other performance enhancing
substances in sports?
Let's admit that most sports are entertainment.
Do we really care if our favorite actors get face lifts, tummy tucks or Botox
injections in order to enhance their ability to better entertain us? Athletes
are no different than actors, right? We want to see the best show money can
buy. But at what price? There are a variety of different steroids or other
performance enhancing drugs available. Most are available by prescription only.
Most are organic based chemicals with other synthetic altered formats,
most of which were designed to treat real illness. However, as with most drugs,
side effects were discovered, and it is those side effects, muscle enhancements
with speed, strength and stamina elements, that make them useful in sports.
Other chemical or compounds are then engineered to focus on just these
enhancements. An added bonus is the new designer drugs are not detectible.
However, most of these drugs also have harmful side effects. Young
athletes have had organ failure, heart attacks and strokes, related at least in
part to the use or abuse of steroids and related enhancement drugs. Do we, as
spectators and fans, represented in large part in this case by the owners,
encourage use by demanding higher performance and paying large contracts on
historical performance and future expectation?
How do we, as a society, want to deal with performance
substance use or abuse? We can take one absolute position against. Either from
the players and unions up, or from the legislature down, we can say no drugs.
Agreement or law could mandate a uniform leveling of the playing field, in all
sports. We create a list of banned substances and agree to some format of
verification . . . yes, drug testing.
We put aside some privacy rights
and justify this draconian approach on a number of levels. We could simply
agree that these are personally harmful and that we don't want to encourage
something that is harmful to an athlete, and try to remove the pressure for
excess. We do this to protect them from themselves. We can also justify this
due to the ever present sports role model argument. We don't want to perpetuate
a myth of higher excellence and achievement based upon false pretenses
If pros can uses these things, then how about
minor leaguers, colleges, high school? Any line drawn between these levels
would be totally artificial and only part of the grey area or slippery slope.
However some line of permissible versus prohibited must be drawn.
Assuming we draw that line, and establish a procedure for verification, then we
must be clear with the ramifications of violation. A single violation means
suspension. Retesting must show clean. Repeated violations must become career
threatening. After all, if players are not concerned that wrong conduct will
jeopardize their health and their lives, and then perhaps they will react if
their repeated conduct, also known as drug induced stupidity, will affect their
livelihood. The same penalties should apply across the board to all other
But what if we want maximum performance? What if we want
to allow records to be broken? What if we want bigger, faster and better in the
modern era of sports? Simple. Again, rules are made to allow and to limit
whatever we want. Certain drugs are OK and certain drugs are prohibited. Again,
there must be testing and verification or everything else is pointless.
Whatever was done in the past, was done in the past. Forget the asterisks in
the record books. Leagues and Players associations make the rules and really
Have clear and heavy penalties for violations, and
enforce them. The limbo and speculation that we are all presently suffering is
simply pointless. Draw the line in the sand and move on. Let's focus on the
integrity of game and not on the off field distractions.
Contact Fred at firstname.lastname@example.org
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