Saturday, July 28, 2007

Steroids in sports and society - Schilling vs. Bonds,et al

There's been a lot of talk in the media over the past few months concerning steroids as Barry Bonds has approached Hank Aaron's career home run record. This week Curt Schilling created a stir when he was questioned by Bob Costas about the subject.

Schilling made news this week when Costas asked him what he thought about the avoidance by Bonds (and others) to answering the question of whether or not they had used steroids:

"...I just always thought it was very simple: If you did something and someone asks you if you did it and you didn't do it, you say no. Any other answer than no is some form of yes, isn't it?"

This caused discussion of not only the steroids issue, but also the issue of whether Schilling, who people seem to either love or hate, should have opened his mouth at all.

A discussion such as this began on the Red Sox forum where I normally post and go for information. I was surprised to see a couple of people offer the opinion that steroid use could be used without harm in a controlled environment, even to the point of saying that the American public had been duped by the media to believe this wasn't the case.

I just responded back and thought I would share my response with you:

You know, I won't argue that blaming steroids for direct causation in what Chris Benoit did is inaccurate. I will agree that stating that "JUST steroids are responsible" seems pretty unenlightened.

On the other hand, I would suggest that many of the young men that are drawn to the benefits of steroid use are exactly the people that shouldn't be using them.

I'm reminded of a discussion I had with one of our assistant deans when I was in college. He told me that in all the time he had been dealing with students, the overwhelming majority of young men that were taking classes in preparation for law enforcement were decidedly unqualified for the profession due to several factors, including their egos and pride and how these played into what he believed was a jaded motivation to be in law profession to bolster their self esteem.

Now, perhaps that analogy doesn't quite fit, but I hope you understand the spirit of what I'm trying to say. So many of our young athletes today, especially the premier high school and college athletes, are coddled to the point that they have no comprehension of what the real world is like. Not, at least, until they finally reach a big enough pool of talent that they realize there are thousands of other guys just like them from cities and towns across the country, even the world, and that it is only the rare blessed few that ever really make their careers playing the sport that has allowed them privilege and notoriety up until that point.

Unfortunately, for many it is about this same time that all the privilege and notoriety suddenly disappear and the young man is left isolated and unpampered for perhaps the first time in their young lives. Many of them are also left intellectually and emotionally incapable of fully comprehending the full impact of decisions they make at this point out of sheer desperation, including of course, the decision to take and abuse steroids.

Personally, I grew up with two close friends that did abuse steroids. One was a chubby kid that everyone loved because of his awesome personality and humor, and the other was the product of a divorced family that was short and small and pretty annoying. The one with the decent personality also had a family that loved him,and they were able to intervene and get him back on track with his life, but not before he had caused considerable emotional harm to himself and those around him. The other kid I don't expect to live past 40 because of all the trauma he caused to his body.

My point is that you can't have this argument in a vacuum. If you want to talk about cop outs, then you have to include the cop out of saying "when used properly in a controlled environment, steroids are perfectly safe". To me, it is nothing short of reprehensible to hold this point of view when it is a fact that for the majority, perhaps greater than 95% of the time, this will NEVER be the case.

I didn't come to this conclusion because the American media steered me wrong. I came to this conclusion because I am intelligent, analytical, an athlete and because one day in the next few years I expect to hear about an old friend passing far to early.

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