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Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead

The following article was posted on January 29th, 2013, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 13, Issue 47 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 47

The 'roid less traveled

Keep the dope fiends out of sports

BY KRISTINA SEWELL

Remember when we were kids? We would all be playing a game with our friends, and suddenly we would bust one of them trying to cheat his or her way to victory? We would say things like, “No one likes a cheater!” and “Cheater-cheater pumpkin eater!” and “Cheaters never prosper!”

From the time we’re sprouts in kindergarten to adults in college, we’re taught that cheating is reprehensible, unacceptable, and always comes with consequences. At no point in my education (although I can’t speak for everyone) was I told that some people are exempt from cheating.

But for those of us who’ve followed sports since the mid-’90s and on, it seems that a certain generation missed the boat on the whole “don’t cheat” thing; we’ve developed a culture of cheaters.

I’m talking about doping in sports, singlehandedly the most debated and tireless issue plaguing athletics. Cases of doping athletes have become so rampant that it’s no longer surprising when yet another one comes forward and admits to steroid use.

The recent events surrounding the Lance Armstrong “doping debacle,” as I like to call it, represent just one more incident in a long line of athletes who think they’re above the regulations.

Earlier in January, Armstrong agreed to an interview with Oprah to discuss his steroid use, which led to the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles in October 2012. But even more shocking than this former hero’s admission to substance abuse was his confession in front of a national audience that he didn’t think of “doping as cheating.”

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says to cheat is “to deprive [others] of something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud; to violate rules dishonestly.”

Armstrong now joins the ranks of other former sports greats like Mark McGuire, Marion Jones, and numerous others who have fallen from glory after admitting to steroid use. If this keeps up, we’ll have enough athletes to create the Dopers Sports Hall of Fame.

Time and time again, athletes are making the conscious decision to alter their bodies with illegal methods or substances to cut corners and gain an unfair advantage over the competition.

Somehow, it seems as though steroids have become some twisted rite of passage for athletes—and also the quickest route to fame and fortune. Doping is so common that people are making the disturbing argument that it’s time to allow steroids in sports. When I discover things like this, my faith in human logic dies a little more.

I’ll admit that one part of me (a small, irrational part) says, “Yeah, what the hell? Let’s allow doping in sports!” Just think: It’d be like American Gladiators on crack. Football would be filled with linemen built like Mac trucks and running backs would become race horses. Baseball would become more like a home run marathon of who can hit the shit out of the ball the hardest. While we’re at it, let’s rebuild the Roman Coliseum of old and throw all the ’roid-raging athletes in there together.

But to even entertain the notion of a world where steroids are permitted in sports is like watching a dog walk on its hind legs: it’s just not right.

I’m not sure why a pro-steroids argument is even floating around. Bottom line: Cheating is cheating, and doping is cheating. There’s no other argument; this is a black-and-white issue.

Steroids are a major problem in sports; their existence is nothing but damaging and detrimental to everyone involved. People from the “pro-steroids” camp argue that there’s not enough evidence to prove that steroids have physical side effects.

 First off: Think before you speak. Secondly, let’s journey back in time to the early days of Barry Bonds. When he started in major league baseball, he looked more like a track runner. By the time he was finished playing—even if he maintains that he never knowingly took steroids—his head and neck had ballooned to outrageous proportions. And let’s not forget British cyclist Tom Simpson who died from drug-induced heat stroke during the Tour de France in 1963.

The list of negative health effects from steroids is plenty evident, and on a side note: Men, I will never understand why you would ever risk the, uh, family jewels for those few extra feet or seconds in a competition. Because that’s what it comes down to: You’re putting your body and reputation at risk for those few extra seconds.

But more importantly than the physical argument against steroids is the argument for the world of sports.

Before the doping era, sports were built on a mutual trust and understanding among athletes that victory would be achieved through fair play and solidarity—one athlete’s best against another’s. These unspoken mutual agreements are fundamental to the integrity of the game, so when someone cheats, the value of victory diminishes.

These athletes are contributing to the decimation of the integrity of sports, and, moreover, they’re setting a terrible example for younger, aspiring athletes who look up to them. A study from the November 2012 Journal of Pediatrics revealed that 6 percent of middle and high school students have taken some form of growth hormones. This tells us that the doping issue is bigger than we thought.

When the doping craze started in the mid-’90s, a lot of people made money from the superhuman feats achieved in baseball and football; they certainly made for great ratings and spectator moments. But after these athletes perform these mind-boggling feats, we find out they cheated. Spectators can’t even watch athletes rush for 2,000 yards or hit 50 home runs in a season without that worrisome voice asking: “I wonder if they are using steroids?”

A former athlete, I was trained to believe that cheating wasn’t an honorable method for improving your game. Of course, I could have made my softball career more worthwhile if I had used steroids, but how is that fair to the athlete who worked hard and trained clean?

Eliminating steroids from sports is just as much about protecting the clean athletes as the validity of sport itself. Doping in sports perpetuates a cycle of fraud; as an audience, we are being duped out of real competition.

The joy of watching sports comes from watching athletes achieve superhuman feats and knowing they accomplished such things through old-fashioned hard work, courage, and dedication to the game. Being a true athlete means honoring truth in competition.

We can no longer ignore steroids in sports. At this point, it is everyone’s problem. If we want sports to become a pharmaceutical free-for-all and another cheap form of entertainment, then entertain the idiotic notion of allowing drugs into athletics.

We can’t continue on this current path or sports as we know it will become obsolete. My dear sports fans, competition is about athleticism, not a competition of engineered biology. We have proved time and time again as a species that the human body is capable of amazing things if we work hard for it; there’s no short route to success.

It really is a simple equation: Steroids is cheating. There’s absolutely no room for drugs of any kind in athletics. But what do I know? I’m just a Benchwarmer—and I’m ’roid-rage free.

Staff Writer Kristina Sewell says drugs are bad, mmmk? Contact her at ksewell@santamariasun.com.