Saturday, August 21, 2010
In 2005, and again in 2007, I wrote on this issue, defending the use of controlled substances by sports figures...not a popular position then, and probably no more popular now. Like so many aspects of our schizopphrenic culture, what is done in private is one thing, but what we self-righteously say in public is supposed to be something elese entirely. Well, I don't play that game.
Three years ago, the New York Times reported, “…Former Sen. Mitchell's 300-plus page document on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, 21 months in the making, claims that nearly 90 players -- most notably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada -- are guilty of using some form of PEDs.” [Perfomance Enhancing Drugs] Yesterday's indictment of Roger Clemens for allegedly lying to Congress is the next step in 'getting those guys' when they can't produce the evidence to convict on the original case. It's the Get-Martha-Stewart approach to justice.
When Mark Magwire was hounded by the press for using Androstendione ( a substance that was legal and sold over the counter in Golds Gyms, GNCs, and Drug Stores across America), it was easy to point the finger at “One Bad Guy.” When Barry Bonds was fingered as a steroid user, the writers at Sports Illustrated (sports nuts who cant play, but who delight in the catty process of creating legends and then destroying them) frothed at the mouth, issue after issue, because they could crucify One Bad Guy.
But now that steroids have appeared in major league baseball across the spectrum of time and teams, prosecuters can have a field day.
Five years ago I wrote:
“…Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the original Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot Dakota sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it in 2004, I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.
And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two chemical steps away from a steroid, is still OK. The steroids that Jose "save-my-own-ass" Canseco mentioned being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in a kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances. And a great deal comes into this country from upstanding American soldier-heroes, who discover that the rest of the developed world doesnt have the knee-jerk Prohibitionist response that America has.
The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots of Cortisone from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.
And yes, some use steroids.
Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.
It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players!”
Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me. Of course, why stop at baseball players?
Does anyone really believe that the models on the cover of Mens fitness magazines get that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big?
Wake up, folk: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away…you make it go underground, and you increase the danger of its being tainted. Anyone remember Prohibition?
What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Have these sports figures killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage they have caused?
There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast, that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.
If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree. We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you.”