Friday, December 14

Roid Rage

photo from
Don’t know if you heard, but there’s a big story brewing about steroids and major league baseball. I think the major news sites might have some coverage of it, so check it out.

And, I’m sure, every other blog in the NBA universe is asking, “What about this league? Why don’t we hear about NBA players being accused of steroid abuse?” It’s a legitimate question, but, honestly, if you want to read about that topic, look elsewhere.

Why? Because I don’t care about steroids. Or cocaine. Or marijuana. Or any drug any man decides to put into his body. It’s none of my business, and as long as he’s not driving a bus or flying a plane, it doesn’t affect my life.

But let’s focus on the steroid aspect for a moment. My question to all the media hyperventilating in their rush for the moral high ground: Why does it matter that Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens (allegedly) use steroids? Why have we decided that this is important? You have to go to the root of the situation, to my way of thinking, which is, why were steroids banned in the first place?

The story goes back to German weightlifters (shocking!) in the 1950s, who suddenly burst onto the Olympic scene and began taking medals away from Russians and Americans. (To be honest, the story goes back to the late 1800s, when some scientists discovered that injecting themselves with dog testosterone helped their muscles. But I’m looking at athletics here, so we’ll leave that for another day). By 1972, the IOC was testing for steroids, and while those tests were always behind the curve in catching the users, by the late 1980s more sophisticated tests were in place, enabling the IOC to nail people like Ben Johnson, as well as seemingly everyone who ever competed in the Olympics under either a West or East German flag (okay, not everyone; there was a swimmer who didn’t get punished, but that’s because his name used to be Janet).

So, obviously, steroids were banned because they gave some people an unfair advantage over others. That’s the long and short of it. They created an unlevel playing field, and that bugged those who weren’t taking the drugs.

But let me ask you, is there now or has there ever been a level playing field in this world? Is it fair that Canada dominates at the Winter Olympics and the African nations struggle, simply because of climate? Is it fair that Kenyan runners train in high altitudes because of their geographic location, enabling them to dominate long distant events? Is it fair that American athletes get billions of dollars on training equipment, professional coaches, and luxurious facilities, while 90% of the other athletes in the Olympics are lucky to get a sandwich and some guy whose uncle read a book about Jesse Owens to train them?

Of course it isn’t, and that’s why this whole steroids thing ticks me off. Take Mo Sene as an example. The per capita income in Senegal is $1,400. $1,400! Are you telling me that Sene had even 1/100th the training as a child that Ray Allen or Wally Szczerbiak or Luke Ridnour? Is it fair that he never got anything remotely resembling professional training until he was old enough to vote, while the rest of the league has been practicing in leagues and schools since they were old enough to walk?

And yet, if Sene was discovered to have taken steroids next week, he would be the one accused of using an unlevel playing field to boost his play. It’s just ridiculous and I’m tired of hearing about it.

After all, imagine what would happen if the Olympic committees and professional leagues decided tomorrow that, fine, we can’t police this stuff, and we’re tired of this whole debacle. Go ahead, stick needles in your asses and drink testosterone cocktails. It’s all legal, and we’re not going to stop you. What would happen?

Honestly, I have no idea, except that this charade of people pretending to care about the “integrity of the sport” – one of the great idiocies of the 21st century – would finally, thankfully, fall to the wayside.


Chris Brummel said...

Wow. *Shakes head*

While I agree that there is no such thing as a level playing feild, the examples you give are enviromental and societal constructs; steroids is an artificial construct, closer in line to using flubber on your basketball shoes (which, btw, I'm all for, because that would be totally bad-ass).

Anonymous said...

What a horrible take on this subject. Your points make no sense at all. Trying to compare someone taking steroids to Canadians having an advantage over Africans at winter sports is hysterical.

Paul said...

While I would love to see steroids wiped off the face of the earth, I agree that any idea of "integrity" in pro sports went out the window about 100 years ago. Players have been juiced for years . . . it's just that the juice is getting better.

The real problem is that we put these guys up on a pedestal and expect them to do superhuman feats, yet when the curtain is pulled back and we find out how they hit 600 foot homeruns or pulled the rim off a backboard we are SHOCKED!

Sports fans need to grow up and realize they can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Good job on this post, I`m thinking the same way as you. It`s the same as if someone takes vitamins to be healthier, or eats meat of better quality (whitch surely helps his muscles to grow). The only thing why steroids should stay banned are their side efects on health. The world really is twofaced.

(flubber rocks haha)

Anonymous said...

Sene takes steroids?

Anonymous said...

I was watching a show a while back where some scientists (Canadian i believe - at Simon Frasier) were testing whether steriods improved performance - and the conclusion was that there was not strong evidence that it did.

The whole steroid thing is something of a crock. I wouldn;t put it past the owners to be using it as a bash against the players and the union.

In the end, it don't matter to me.

Anonymous said...

As a Sonics fan, I usually enjoy your blog. Although I don't agree with your take on steroids, I think your comment about other drug use not being any of your business is misinformed and bordering on stupid.

Drug abuse drives up health care costs, law enforcement costs (and thus the taxes you pay), breaks up families, leads to violent crimes, etc, etc, etc. If you think it's none of your business, think again, man. It's because of attitudes like this that drug abuse and all of its accompanying problems are getting worse.

Drug abuse is everyone's problem

Anonymous said...

As an advocate of the decriminalization and legalization of all drugs, I believe that an individual should have the right to choose what he or she puts into his or her system—no matter the consequences.

I'm a libertarian minarchist, too, so I don't think that any governmental institution -- whether it's at the federal, state, or municipal level -- should finance the rehabilitation costs needed to wean someone off of a drug addiction.

All things considered, I'm a proponent of unadulterated freedom and self-sufficiency.

Paul said...

We're not talking about drug abuse, we're talking about drug use. And yes, there is a difference.

When I had bronchitis last month, my doctor prescribed me something a lot more powerful and addictive than pot: Vicodin. And yet Vicodin is legal and pot is not. Weird, huh? Not so weird when you figure the money that goes into marketing and selling prescription drugs.

It's all about money. Period. And anyone who believes that pot is driving up health care, taxes and breaking up more families than booze or other legal drugs must be high.

Anonymous said...

Merrill, I think one of the words used was "Cocaine". My brother died from an overdose of an addiction he could not control. It got so bad that he would break into people's houses to steal money to buy it. There's a very fine line between drug use and abuse. You really have no clue.

The main argument I have against taking steroids is that you've got to draw a line somewhere. Today it's steroids but tomorrow who knows? Radiation? Gene manipulation? We're just asking for human mutations that will result in super-viruses, that wipe out most of the over-populated planet just because some less-talented guy wanted an edge.

Anonymous said...

Cocaine, prescription drugs, alcohol . . . sure, they lead to deaths. Not nearly as much though, as Doritos, Soft Taco Supremes, and Mom's magic (it's the high fat content that's magic!) meatloaf.

Agree with Paul. There's a difference between use & abuse. I've yet to meet a person who uses cocaine or nachos in moderation that has died from their addiction to either.

Cocaine nachos, on the other hand, now that's some scary stuff.

Paul said...

I have no clue? Really? Like I've never known drug users or addicts? I live in SEATTLE! Almost everyone I know has done drugs at some point in their life and NONE of them have hurt anyone (including themselves) as a result. None of them have raised your taxes or insurance rates. They are all upstanding citizens who just like to get high once in a while.

I have, however, known plenty of people who have gotten in trouble due to alcohol ( A good friend of mine just got a DUI--Merry Christmas!), but I don't see anyone clamoring to outlaw booze. I wonder why? Oh yeah, because alcohol is a BILLION dollar business!

The vast majority of addicts in this country are hooked on LEGAL drugs, like booze and vicodin, not coke and certainly not pot, which is non-addictive.

I think the real problem here is the government trying to control what we do as individuals. It sounds like you have no problem with that, though. About 40,000 people died in auto-accidents last year--maybe we should outlaw car while we're at it.

Anonymous said...

My son says some of the guys on his high school football team have been taking steriods. Gotta stay on top to keep the playing field level, right?


Where does it stop?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, D.T., I've got a friend who took steroids in high school for football. I'm all for legalizing the stuff, but there's no denyin' the fact that I -- as well as some of my other friends -- told him to get off of the stuff.

Thankfully, he listend to us.

My point, however, is that everybody should have the option to make their own decision. Whenever a statist institution forces themselves upon a given individual, I find that to be an offensive act.

That's just me, though.

In the end, ultimately, it's up to us to make our own choices. Here's to anyone and everyone going the right direction in life.

Paul said...

Kids on MY high school football team (late 80's) were doing steroids too. It's gross and those guys were disgusting (and you thought normal teenage acne was bad!).

The real problem isn't the steroids, of course, it's the amount of pressure people put on kids to win games. And they are just games, no matter what the psychotic parents and/or coaches want to believe.

When I was on the wrestling team (!) in junior high, our coach encouraged us all to starve ourselves or even puke to make weight. I was like 12 years old!

As much as I have always loved sports, a lot of times I just feeling dirty watching pro games anymore.

Anonymous said...

I think the argument partially comes from a health perspective, which you've totally missed in your analysis. Steroids and othe performance enhancing drugs cause long-term health problems.

If professional sports leagues and competitions allow these drugs for the reasons you suggest, then it will be very quickly that the only way to succeed in these fields will be use them and thus expose you to the horrible long term consequences.

Then where do we stop? What if the next performance enhancing drugs boosts you even more but eats your kidneys in a couple years? This is not a sustainable way to promote competition and create future generations of athletes.

Anonymous said...

Long term health effects are unproven. If they could not prove Lyle Alzado died from roids and hgh, they can't prove it for anyone.

I would even argue that a slightly elevated testorone level, i.e. steroids in moderation, could be a good thing to prolong life. Typically roid users are, after all, engaging in a mostly healthy lifestyle.

Which comes back to the drug comments. Anything, taken to the extreme, is unhealthy. And anything, in moderation, can be a good thing.

I nearly killed myself Sat night at my company christmas party, an open bar and 15 scotches (or more) later, I was throwing up in the taxi. That is far FAR more unhealthy for my body than the shrooms i took 2 weeks ago, or the pot my friends smoke on a daily basis, or the occasional times I like to hang out with Casey Jones...

Moderation is key. And having 2 uncles in prison and a brother that got hooked on the crystal, I empathize with you on your brother's tragic life. But creating laws that we all must follow because of a few is a mistake.

For example, in my ideal world we could just organize ourselves in a way where we realize the tragedy of abortion, the cost in emotional duress to those involved. That, NOT OUTLAWING IT, would do more to end it. And while AK and I agree on libertarian bent somewhat, I do believe we take all that money that is funneled to the highly unsuccessful war on drugs and we put it toward rehabilitation and programs for our youth that keep them engaged to the point where drugs get in the way instead of becoming the way.

Finally, the best part of the Mitchell Report and the fact that it is scratching the surface of what is really happening? We can lay the F$&K off Barry Bonds. The guy wasn't the only one, not by a long long shot, and to focus on him as a lightning rod figurehead was wrong from the beginning. He is the greatest hitter I've ever seen, and will ever see. And if he has to use roids to get there, so be it. I appreciate the man for his greatness on the field, and I could care less for what he did off the field to get there.

"All that glitters is not gold,
gilded tombs do worms enfold." -Shakespeare

Anonymous said...

Oh, also... Anthony Mason. He didn't have muscles on top of muscles on top of muscles.

And try this for size--

take a viewing of a Bulls game from 1987 and a game between the Bulls/Wizards and Knicks late in Jordan and Oakley's careers.

How much larger were Jordan and Oakley 10 years later? A good 25-50 lbs. apiece.

Not that Jordan would ever do such a thing, what with knees that were starting to go, and a desire to win unlike any other athlete ever.

Nope, that would not be in the least bit a position where a person might push the boundaries of the rules of the game to still compete.

I'm not saying he did, I'm just saying take a look with open eyes... the possibility is not null and void.

Paul said...

That's a great point about Jordan. I hate to even think about it (one of the few last untarnished heroes in sports) but he was really built like a power forward in his later years.

Anonymous said...

This blog has been going down hill in a hurry and has now reached an all-time low. I will not be coming back, so let me leave you with a parting comment:

You ask what would happen if steriods and HGH were suddenly legal to use in athletics. What we would see is that performance enhancing drugs would be a prerequisite to compete in athletics. How could any parent encourage their children to participate in athletics knowing that unless they entered a newly created class of athletic mutants in order to compete. They wouldn't and sports would cease to exist as we know it. Your way of thinking does more harm to sports in Seattle than anything Clay Bennet could do to the city. is DEAD!

Paul said...

Supersonicsoul is dead? What are you, the God of the Internets? You don't even have a name, jackass!

Also, learn to read. Nussbaum wasn't encouraging steroids, especially in kids (nice leap in logic!). What he was ranting about was the hypocrisy of it all--sports lost their integrity a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

This last comment came from the same guy who said:

"It`s the same as if someone takes vitamins to be healthier, or eats meat of better quality (whitch surely helps his muscles to grow)."

Now tell me again who's argument lacks logic. Thankfully, we live in a society where the good of the whole trumps the individualistic desires of those that advocate the personal freedom to do whatever they want.

Paul said...

Again, LEARN TO READ! Nussbaum wrote that, not me! I'm just defending his right to an opinion. While I hate steroids, I don't believe they are the NUMBER ONE THREAT TO SPORTS like the media keeps shoving down our throats. The number one threat to sports is MONEY, and it always has been.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Nuss. You don't listen. You pick out the part of the argument that supports your broadstroke beliefs in conservatism and forget that every time you make your blanket statement covering everybody and everything, you cover a lot of us that don't want to be under your blanket. And last I checked, we were SUPPOSED to have the freedom to not be under your blanket.

"Thankfully, we live in a society where the good of the whole trumps the individualistic desires of those that advocate the personal freedom to do whatever they want."

Who defines it? Who has the moral superiority to tell another person what is right for me is right for you, and what is right for you is right to me?

Sounds to me like you live in a small sheltered world, where your belief in what is right for yourself is right for others, and you wish to impress your belief onto me.

Your system sucks. My system allows you to be you and me to be me. As long as we don't hurt one another, we get along fine.

That being said, when you restrict my rights, you are hurting me.

Our society was founded on... let me see here... Life, LIBERTY and the PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS. Your restrictions make me UNhappy, and they restrict my freedom.

Meh. I'm talking to a wall. You're not going to change your mind, I'm not going to change mine.

The difference? I'm okay with that. I'm all about live and let live. However you want me to live my life the way YOU see fit.

Weak sauce.

ptp said...

Saying that steroids are fine because of altitude differences in Africa is mind-numbing. They're not fine, they cause serious health concerns for athletes, and it's a problem that's crept down to the high school level. Seriously, what the fuck?