In a previous article, I mentioned “Those 3 Little Words”. Performance Enhancing DRUGS. PED’s are such a large part of our sports culture that the first two words are synonymous with the third. And in that article I attempted to reveal what I believed to be the hypocrisy of our current drug policy in this country, especially as it relates to Professional Sports (ie. Adult Jobs).
A lot of people seem opposed to the idea of PED’s in professional sports. And while I don’t necessarily disagree with them the logic they use to back that belief up seems inconsistent when it comes to other “legal” drugs. Again, before I go any further let me reiterate my stance on the matter. If you compete in a sport that says PED’s are against the rule, and you use PED’s…then you are a CHEATER. I am no way advocating PED use of any kind on any level. However, having substantially prefaced my point I will say that my personal belief on the subject revolves around moral consistency. I challenge you to explain why PED’s are illegal, while tobacco and alcohol are legal. And since all of my “beliefs” are based on evidence, if your argument is convincing enough I may in fact be swayed. All I can say is to this point in my life I have heard no such argument.
[Tweet “If Steroids are Illegal for Athletes, Then Plastic Surgery Should be Illegal for Actor/Actresses”]
So now that we have established that I do in fact agree that if you do something against the rules of your sport then you are a cheater; let’s look a little closer at those rules. Now I understand that there is a legality issue. If PED’s are illegal, then there is no way a sport of any kind would be wise to endorse it’s use. However, if the NBA, NFL, NHL or more to the point MLB do NOT test for PED’s then aren’t you working in some kind of grey area?!
Let’s jump in the WayBack Machine and travel back to 1998. That was the season when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had their yearlong HR Derby. Are you going to tell me no one knew what was going on? I refuse to believe that the American public is naïve enough to think that they were just “sayin their prayers and takin their vitamins” like all the other Hulkamaniacs of the era. And what did we get out of the “*Asterisks Era”? Well we got some of the most memorably entertaining baseball of recent memory. Did we not? Isn’t entertainment the whole point of professional sports?
Another point on the legality issue, one of the attractions of Professional Sports is it’s suspension of reality. If you want to say that professional athletes should have to obey the same rules of the criminal justice system as the average American then you are either going to have less sports, more boring sports, or more criminals. Pretty much all contact sports involve some kind of assault. Think about all the criminal violence in sports; NHL fighting, to boxing/mma, to a linebacker laying out a wide receiver…back when it was legal. Not only does professional sports take us to a fantasy land where they bend the laws of nature with their superhuman performances, they also bend the laws of this land with the amount of pain they are allowed to inflict on their fellow citizen. So can the legality of something be the main objection with regards to PED’s? Then again, where is the consistency?
Ok, so let’s set the legal aspect of it aside. What are we left with, with regards to PED usage? While I still contend that fans have ZERO concern about player’s safety the next obvious objection would be the long term safety of PED usage. Ok, fair enough, but then if you do not actually KNOW the long term safety of any particular substance do you automatically decide it is BAD, or do you allow adults to make adult decisions and partake; knowing that there may in fact be known or unknown side effects of that choice? How is this any different than the current concussion discussion in the NFL? If you are truly worried about long term effects, then why is the NFL still in business? I would venture to *guess* there is more documented proof of the debilitating symptoms from repeated concussions than there are of long term steroid use. The problem is that the studies of the latter are harder to find because the NFL doesn’t want that information to come out, and some of the studies of the former clearly have an agenda attached to them.
What if we treated PED’s the same way that we treated the concussion issue? What if we gave ADULTS the absolute BEST, NON-BIASED medical information we had on steroids, and allowed them to make their own decision with regard to their use? Much like we know that concussions are a major issue, education is always the key. In the hypothetical scenario that PED’s were legal for professional competition how much safer would the administration of these protocols be? Instead of Pro Athletes having to resort to the black market, they could be monitored by trained professionals, and advised accordingly. The funny thing is, that is EXACTLY WHAT HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY IS!!! And it is considered safe, and legal. Does anyone else see the conflict here, or am I the only one?
And while it is almost not worth mentioning, another objection is always “what about the children?” As I mentioned in my previous article, I believe this is the weakest objection of all. The truth is, adults are allowed to do things that kids can’t. It really is as simple as that, or at least I think it should be. I do agree that sports teaches great life lessons and such to kids. The problem is when you try to equate High School sports to the Pros. They are simply two different animals that barely resemble one another. Baseball, Football, Basketball are all great games. However, once someone starts to pay you that all changes. It is no longer is a game. It’s Your JOB.
So the only semi-legitimate objection I can think of beyond that is what I like to call “The Myth of the Level Playing Field.” Truth be told, I do not think there is such a thing as a level playing field; at least not within the context that most people apply it. One of the biggest myths in America is the concept that “all men are created equal.” I hate to break it to you, but all men are NOT in fact created equally. If you don’t believe me, simply ask any female that has more than one serious relationship under her belt. Having said that, I am a big proponent of democracy, and think that what the founders should have said was “all men deserve the same opportunities.”
“90% of the professional athletes are going to be professional athletes with or without drugs. Just because of genetics and skills maybe at the very most 20% are there because they worked hard. How many pro football players do you see that are 5’6″?” -Dave Tate-
The truth is that in life, and in sports; who wins and who loses is rarely 100% in our control. We do all sorts of mental gymnastics to convince ourselves otherwise, and it almost always leads to disappointment. Yes, you can say in theory that the 5’9” kid and the 6’9” in 10th grade have an equal chance of playing in the NBA, but statistically you will be proven wrong every single time. Again, they have an equal opportunity to try to attain that goal, but they were not created equal. Thankfully the Universe tends to balance this inequality out, because kid with the Napoleon Complex works his ass off in school and winds up OWNING the team, but that is a different discussion entirely.
After the first article, I was discussing the subject with James Coleman. James is the CEO and owner of Godspeed Elite Sports Performance. I like to bounce training ideas off James from time to time, he knows the strength and conditioning world and he always calls me out when I am wrong. Here is a small look into that discussion…
James Anthony Coleman II: This is my thoughts. You have to always say you are not condoning this. I’d almost put a paragraph in the beginning about your thoughts on it. But you make all points that I tell folks. 1) You still have to work hard as a mother on PEDs 2) Best game I ever played I was hung over. I had few inhibitions and that made me play harder 3) Coffee is a performance enhancer 4) Each era had certain things: Babe Ruth didn’t play against black guys, some pitchers played with a spit ball etc 5) see point 1
Plus the mind state of any successful person is to push limits: physical, mental, social and moral, generally for the sake to gain capital and/or status.
Branch Rockey didn’t sign Jackie Robinson to break color gaps he did it to win. Whatever the line is you take two steps over it to remain on top for the long haul. I never did them but I took shit tons of caffeine and anti inflammatories to be able to function
Don Johnson: Yeah I actually went back and added in several of the I AM NOT ADVOCATING PED’s!! And you are right..baseball is the best example. I mean not only is coffee a performance enhancer…but they used to put amphetamines in the coffee…it was widely known as “leaded or unleaded” coffee.
James Anthony Coleman II: “If your enemy has a fair advantage you didn’t set up the battlefield right”
Don Johnson: Well like you said….greatness requires sacrifice….shouldn’t more reward be afforded to those that will do whatever it takes…rather than catering to the genetically gifted?! PED’s don’t level the playing field either…but if everyone has the opportunity to use or not..it raises the entertainment bar (which is all that matters) across the board.
James Anthony Coleman II: It’s no different than the results if p90x or it’s knockoffs.
The folks who got results are already driven, a types who probably already had some type of fitness level in the past and had the discipline to follow everything in that program. It’s marketed as a anyone can do it but everyone cannot dedicate 6-7 hrs/166 hrs a week training, eat 6 nutritious meals a day and journal. Everyone should but if they did and are willing it almost doesn’t matter what they do. They will see success because of the sacrifice that they make.
Athletes, typically the elite, do only 4-8% more than the average human does but it’s that willingness to do that provides the results.
If you give nitrous to a pinto it will only beat other pintos. But if you give it to a corvette it will beat other corvettes but your still driving a freaking corvette. So your better than 90% of other cars
Don Johnson: Oh I am still with you..my point was actually just that…..it doesn’t change the balance of the playing field at all….so what is the objection? Again since sports is nothing but entertainment and bigger stronger faster and LONGER is more entertaining
it cant be the safety of the players…if so…then don’t let them play football, and call off the XGames while you are at it…
James Anthony Coleman II: It’s all about controlling the chattel. But America wants gladiators but scream when it gets too bloody. We forget that in most cases people need to learn to press fast forward
Don Johnson: Well you know by now my thing is be knowledgeable about a subject or don’t offer an opinion…and be consistent with your morality. I seriously have yet to hear a compelling argument against PED’s that wasn’t based on fear and or ignorance
James Anthony Coleman II: Honestly I think it would help ease injuries. Most injuries are overuse because of the inability to recover. If they can aide in recovery I think it helps. People will get better with nutrition and tech in the field so it really doesn’t matter.
Don Johnson: Exactly…instead of shunning it…learn to use it to the best of your abilities. EDUCATE!! And the “what about the children”..”bad role model” argument is so lame. Adults can do things children cant do…end of story. I mean soldiers have to kill people….
…and soldiers can be killed
James Anthony Coleman II: Exactly. My role models sold real drugs. They are amazingly nice people in an awful profession and are ruthless in their execution of that biz. But they are good folks. That’s how I view athletes. I still love Barry and lance. Would cancer research be as public without the live strong movement
I like to see the human body pushed to limits. I wanted Bolt to run sub 9.5 just because they say it’s impossible because body can’t hold up. I wanted to see if he’d explode or something.
Don Johnson: EXACTLY…THAT’s THE POINT OF SPORTS! To push the boundaries of human performance. Besides..in 50-100 years bio-engineering will be a real thing….and human limitations will become less and less of an issue…and sports will either become pointless (moreso than they are) or they will morph into something currently unrecognizable…it really is just a matter of time.
So I suppose if I had one follow up question from the last article it would be this: What would be the result of making PED’s legal for pro sports? If we allowed athletes to push the boundaries of human performance, while fully informed of any potential dangers; would there in fact be any negative consequences? From my point of view all it would do would be to bring that culture out into the light. It would allow Professional teams to monitor and plan administration the same way the HRT clinics currently do. It would bring education to the subject, and education is always a good thing.