As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, news broke that a clinic in Miami has records showing the distribution of performance enhancing drugs to some very notable MLB stars. If true, this is very unfortunate news, and it brings this admittedly tired topic back to the forefront (but please don’t stop reading just because it’s a retread of a conversation). Right when you think baseball has cleaned up the game, this story breaks and allegedly involves a former Cy Young Award winner, Bartolo Colon, and the 2003, 2005, and 2007 AL MVP Alex Rodriguez. The latest emerging details indicate that Anthony Bosch who ran the Biogenesis of America clinic in Coral Gables, South Florida not only supplied several baseball players with PEDs, he directly injected Yankees’ slugger, Alex Rodriguez.
A-Rod has hired an attorney and is fighting to clear his name. While I badly want to believe his denial, his history of unscrupulous behavior and previous PED admission make it impossible for even I–his most ardent defender–to continue denying the media’s A-Rod Hate-A-Thon.
Rather than delve into this specific news story, I would like to illuminate the big fat steroid double standard that these revelations will only perpetuate: When you think steroids you think baseball. You think Barry Bonds. You think Manny Ramirez, and certainly Alex Rodriguez, but maybe you shouldn’t.
Back in 2006, Shawn Merriman was suspended four games after a drug test indicated he used steroids. Merriman was a NFL Pro Bowler and star defensive end who literally used steroids to hit people harder. Not to hit a ball harder, but literally to smash into other men with more force. His former San Diego Charger teammate, Luis Castillo also got busted for steroids. These aren’t isolated incidents. Julius Peppers (the same one that cheated academically at Chapel Hill) received one of the NFL’s wimpy four-game suspensions after a positive test. Dwayne Bowe, Deuce McAllister, Charles Grant and many more have been suspended. How the NFL keeps this on the down low (at least relative to baseball) is impressive.
Just this year, Ray Lewis tore his triceps, a severe injury with a six month recovery time … only he returned to action a little more than two months later. During the third month of his “recovery,” he made 17 tackles in a double-overtime playoff game in Denver. In 13-degree weather. At age 37. (Insert accusations here as you please.)
There is a steroid double standard among the media (and congress), as they pour over the topic of steroids in baseball without so much as a peep about their role in a sport in which there is so much incentive to use them and where they serve not only to harm the users, but to injure other players who they jump on, stiff arm, and otherwise smash into.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues his crusade for player safety focusing primarily on tweaks or even major changes to the sport itself. This effort was prompted by accounts of players so banged up at the conclusion of their NFL career that they could hardly function. It includes lawsuits over the matter and is largely being pushed by the players’ union. Conversely, The NFL’s steroid problem has no ignition… No home run record suspiciously broken by a 34-year-old and no lawsuit by the family of a deceased star (the family of the late Junior Seau has a wrongful death suit against the NFL) to spark it into action. Nonetheless, if Roger Goodell truly cares about player safety, tackling the steroid issue is imperative. Doing nothing about steroids in football and trying to make the game safer is like claiming to fix America’s debt problem without reforming entitlement spending.
College football is an even dirtier playground, despite my love for it. It’s been widely circulated that upon Nick Saban’s arrival at Alabama quite a few players were using steroids. Rather then punish them at the time, Saban instituted a no tolerance policy and told all players they would be tested again in six months and violators would immediately be kicked off the team. Just like that, the problem was solved. While he may have cleaned up his own program, the NCAA has essentially no steroid enforcement whatsoever and there is a great deal of reason to believe its use in the college ranks is rampant. To be sure, the NCAA does hound its players for the most unimportant infractions such as a “coach providing lodging,” but to neglect something this big makes me wonder about their priorities.
Top tweeter, @MDouty, explained his apathy to the revelation that Ray Lewis
possibly used deer antler spray, which is banned by the NFL, during his recovery from torn triceps.
In my opinion, the deer antler spray is comparable to the power band bracelets. Both are irrelevant and pointless. It’s all mental.
— Matt Douty (@mdouty) January 31, 2013
While I can’t comment on the effectiveness or safety of deer antler spray specifically, I would point out that it’s not the effectiveness of the drug that makes it illegal (e.g., whey protein is very effective, but is safe and I would highly recommend it), rather it is the danger many PEDs present. While deer antler spray may be no big deal, the NFL and to an even larger extent the NCAA’s failure to get a handle on this issue endangers the athletes and the youth that look up to them.
The NFL’s drive towards safety and the NCAA’s incessant investigations, fraudulent they may be, seem nitpicky at best and hypocritical at worst. Their disinterest in solving the steroid problems before it explodes as it did in baseball is a ticking time bomb. I sincerely hope they do something about it, but in 2, 5, or 10 years I will go back to this post to say, “I told you so. Steroids aren’t a baseball thing.”
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At Notre Dame and Alabama, the teams that will soon compete for the national championship, players don’t automatically miss games for testing positive for steroids. At Alabama, coaches have wide discretion. Notre Dame’s student-athlete handbook says a player who fails a test can return to the field once the steroids are out of his system.
“If you’re a strength-and-conditioning coach, if you see your kids making gains that seem a little out of line, are you going to say, ‘I’m going to investigate further? I want to catch someone?’ ” said Anthony Roberts, an author of a book on steroids who says he has helped college football players design steroid regimens to beat drug tests.
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