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The Stain of the Steroid Stigma

By Dale Mock



With the recent suspension of Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin for violating the NFL drug policy, professional sports may be on the verge of another performance enhancing drug scandal. The real question is this: who cares? Irvin is the sixth Seahawk to test positive for a banned substance since 2010. Richard Sherman, the Seattle cornerback who tested positive in 2012 had his suspension overturned. Sherman used the old “chain of custody violation,” defense. 2011Major League Baseball MVP Ryan Braun used the same defense to vindicate his failed drug test in 2012 as well. Irvin chose to admit guilt and take his punishment. Other athletes have done the same. {{more}} Plenty of athletes have chosen to deny all the way past the court of public opinion and straight into the court of law, i.e. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. MLB and the NFL are not alone in the PED controversy either. Cycling has Lance Armstrong, Floyd Landis and a host of others. The Olympics have Marion Jones, Ben Johnson and literally scores of athletes whose names were forgotten. Here’s a name that might be recognized though, Carl Lewis. Lewis tested positive for three banned substances while training for the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Lewis won an appeal however and the test was swept under the rug. Johnson tested positive for one substance, had his gold medal stripped and was soon relegated to the role of the shamed athlete. Ironically, the gold went to Lewis after it was stripped from Johnson. Mixed Martial Arts and boxing have both been touched by PED’s. Alistair Overeem tested positive in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. South African heavyweight boxer Frans Botha failed a drug test after a split decision title defense victory over Axel Schultz. It was long rumored that the legendary boxer Evander Holyfield used PED’s. Ok, so all sports are touched by PED use. All sports at all levels have some sort of testing to prevent it. But why test for PED’s at all? Don’t sports fans want to see the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes with the most endurance compete at the highest level? Aren’t African-American high school kids told by college recruiters every spring that their athletic abilities are their ticket out of the inner city? But, this isn’t a black or white issue. Athletes of all races, colors and economic status have been caught using PED’s. But answer this: if Taylor Hooton would have been an African-American kid from a broken home in South Oak Cliff instead of an upper middle-class white kid from Plano, would his name ever have been heard? The answer is not very likely. His father certainly wouldn’t be the head of a lucrative foundation in his honor, nor would he have ever had the opportunity to rub elbows with members of Congress. The name Taylor Hooton would have faded into obscurity much the same way the majority of athletes who get caught doping fade into obscurity. And that is the issue behind performance enhancing drugs isn’t it? The kids who see their favorite athlete juicing to get ahead, to make that extra 1.5 a year, and want to emulate them even to the point of allowing PED’s to cause their death. Much the way Hooton’s life was ended by steroids. Only wait a second, steroids didn’t kill Hooton. Hooton hung himself in his bedroom with a belt. But steroids are dangerous drugs and kids shouldn’t be allowed near them. Steroids are dangerous for kids because they cause fluctuations in hormone levels. Some steroids cause damage to the liver. But when used responsibly by adults they are proven to be safe and useful. Just ask your doctor about low testosterone if you don’t believe it. Hell, ask Barry Bonds if THG helped him hit 75 home runs in a year and then ask him about his health. Oh, well he may not answer. But Jose Canseco would love to answer any questions about juice and the effects they’ve had on his health. The reality is that everything an athlete is taught about training is some-sort of performance enhancement. That’s why they buy the new Nike running shoes. That’s why they wear Under Armour. That’s why they drink Gatorade. That’s why they train at high altitudes and do two-a-days. The entire aforementioned are tools to enhance performance on the field, during practice and in the off-season. So why not let the athletes have a level playing field? How many are using PED’s right now, 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent? Certainly it couldn’t be that much. Well it’s safe to say that there are likely other Seahawks using them that haven’t been caught yet. And maybe Seattle is an anomalous variation? Pete Carroll has a stellar reputation after all, right? Level the playing field and let adults make adult decisions. The science is on their side. Take a look at the Congressional Hearings to criminalize steroids that began in the late 1980’s. The Drug Enforcement Agency, American Medical Association as well as the Food and Drug Administration all advised Congress to keep steroids legal. In fact, there are stacks of real evidence that support the safety of steroid use in adults. There are medical reports, controlled studies and testimonies galore that can be accessed and read with just a few clicks of a mouse. So how did Congress get it so wrong? Simply put, by refusing the rational evidence in front of them and making a decision based on emotion. Much the same way Hooton’s father, Don Hooton does when he says that steroids caused his son to kill himself. Mr. Hooton ignores or omits the fact that his son was taking an antidepressant given to him by his doctor that lists suicide as a side effect. Now surely that is a prescription that was discussed with the boy’s parents prior to administration? The fact is athletes are trained mentally and physically to get ahead. Sports fans are trained to demand better performances from athletes. Better performance = more championships = more revenue. It really is elementary. So why not let them all get ahead? Give athletes a level field of play, their individual talents will shine through the sea of PED’s. The cream always rises to the top. Let the athletes decide if they want to take Adderall, Testosterone and Human Growth Hormone. Not Rep. Henry Waxman, not Rep. Bill McCollum, and not Don Hooton. But perhaps it suits members of the media well to have another PED scandal brewing whether it’s in Seattle, Denver or Milwaukee? But until the day comes when PED’s are accepted and allowed? There will always be those who ask for more PED’s please.

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