Steroids and Kids
The release of
the Mitchell Report has significant ramifications for the entire sports
world including our SportsKids. By understanding the depth of the problem,
how it impacts baseball and other major sports, and finally, how these
issues trickle down to youth sports, we can begin to understand why this is
such a big deal.
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There is no
question that the Mitchell report only scratched the surface of how bad this
problem is in baseball. From anecdotal evidence and reports from other
sources, it seems clear (pun intended) that the use of performance enhancing
drugs in all sports is widespread. From cycling to track to football, all
sports have been impacted by performance enhancing drugs. While there is no
“smoking gun” it is possible that the vast majority of players have used
some form of enhancement.
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
does this mean for the records?
All of the
records in every sport are flawed in many ways so it makes it difficult to
compare over generations. However, it doesn’t mean that we still can’t
compare players within each era. Take the home run record which Barry Bonds
broke last season. Babe Ruth (714 homers), arguably the greatest all-around
player in the game, never played against anybody of color which dramatically
limited the competition for him.
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Aaron (755 homers) is certainly an incredible player, but he is flawed in
many ways as well. Aaron had 12,364 at bats during his 23 year Hall of Fame
career. Because Ruth spent the first several years as a pitcher and because
he walked so much, he had only 8,398 career at bats. If Ruth had the same
number of at bats that Aaron had he would have hit 1,051 home runs and none
of this would even be a discussion. Furthermore, while there is no evidence
that Hank Aaron ever used any performance enhancing drugs, amphetamines,
which helped focus and with preparedness for games, were very prevalent in
clubhouses during the time that he played.
Barry Bonds (762 homers), based on a volume of evidence it seems obvious
that he has used some type of performance enhancing drugs thereby equally
tainting his accomplishments when compared with Aaron and Ruth. However,
each of these players, while flawed in comparisons over time, still excelled
against their peers. While Bonds may have taken HGH or other enhancers, so
did many other players of his generation and none of them have hit over 700
home runs. While there is evidence performance enhancing drugs have the
ability to help, they don’t by themselves make players great.
more players have taken drugs and not excelled. The effect varies and the
ultimate impact also depends on how hard a player is willing to work. We’ve
all seen the video of Roger Clemens working out and Bonds has a great work
ethic in the gym. Some players who have been caught taking steroids never
made the big leagues. Others never hit more than 12 home runs in a Colorado
Rockies season (Neifi Perez). Jason Giambi became an MVP but his brother
Jeremy ended up out of baseball. The Canseco brothers have a similar story
of overachievement (Jose) and underachievement (Ozzie).
Needs to be Done
sports must do three things: 1) determine what is going to be a violation;
2) dramatically improve testing; and 3) make penalties much more severe
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Coach’s Corner, Continued
first issue is to determine what is “wrong”. There are so many things that
are “performance enhancing” in some way that we need to carefully define
what should be considered a banned substance. Taking things to the extreme,
caffeine, energy drinks, protein shakes, amino acids and other dietary
supplements, eating healthy, and working out certainly give people an
advantage over others that don’t do those things. Where do we draw the line
as to what is an “illegal” vs. a “legal” performance enhancer? This
determination should be done on a national level through Congress or a
governing body like the USOC. Each individual sport should not be allowed to
determine what athletes can use and we need to clearly delineate which
substances will be tolerated.
Unfortunately, the cheaters are still way ahead of the good guys and may
always be. Currently, the effort to test in all sports has been far too
limited. It’s imperative to have blood testing and be much more intrusive in
testing procedures. In no way should the players association be blocking any
efforts for testing. The body that determines banned substances should also
be in charge of establishing and implementing testing procedures.
penalties imposed need to be much harsher. The risk/reward is far to slanted
in favor of taking drugs. People perceive drugs as giving them the
opportunity to play another year of professional sports and earn millions or
maybe even break into the big leagues. The benefit of earning a college
scholarship or even playing sports in high school may seem like a huge
reward when measured against the relatively small risks of getting caught.
Because of the potential health risks and the desire for a fair playing
field, the penalties need to be a deterrent to anybody even considering
using drugs; the penalty for testing positive at any level should be a
lifetime ban from competitive sports.
Impact on our Youth
hearings emphasized the impact on our youth as being the main reason that
steroid use is such an important issue. According to an article found on
kidshealth.org, steroids and HGH pose significant health risks for unknown
and/or nonexistent benefits. The reality is that we just don’t know enough
about the potential risks or even about the possible benefits to justify
allowing drugs into our kids’ system. Furthermore, most kids wouldn’t
properly cycle or administer the drugs, further exacerbating the potential
problems. We simply can’t allow our youth to be tantalized by performance
enhancers. That means we need to do more to stop drug use on all levels.
What’s happened in the past can’t be changed and we can simply evaluate each
player based on their performance against their peers. Yet, for the sake of
our youth, we can’t allow pervasive drug use to continue. It can only be
remedied with greatly enhanced testing and formidable penalties that will
act as enough of a deterrent to alter the existing risk/reward balance. Only
in this way can we get professional and youth sports back to being the
positive diversions they should be.
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