So, Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and Marion Jones walk into a bar…
But all have something in common; they all inspired up and coming athletes to chase their dreams and leave their mark in the world of sports. Yes, it’s true, they took performance enhancement drugs to endure the strain of their respective sports, but does that take away from the fact that they gave people hope, worldwide? They used steroids and some deem that choice to be a breach of the public trust. But really, who are we to judge these players on how they make a living and what they do to be an inspiration? You’ve heard me talk about this before; the public feels a sense of ownership over players because they thirst for their outputs. But if you push, shove and demand something from a person, you can only expect one of two things in response; they break under the pressure…or find a way to get bigger, stronger and faster and meet your expectations.
When I was just a baby Zeus of 21, I got a firsthand look into the world of steroids, from my first ” real” trainer. He would go meet some kid at night, take a brown bag, handshake him some money and then start the transformation process 30 minutes later in his room while I relaxed and ate his mom’s cooking. I admit, I was curious about it, I was told I was too young and didn’t need it. So, even though I was on the outside looking in, I became immune to the sight of needles and bottles and indoctrinated to think that such things were just business as usual– a normal day in the neighborhood, if you will.
My trainer was an up-and-coming bodybuilder and made a career choice that, once coupled with his drive and natural talents, could take his practice to the next level and that next level could very well change his life. So, to be clear, he didn’t meet that kid and get that brown bag because he was a dark and shady character, he did it because to him, opening that bag granted him access to the ‘come-up/Cinderella story’ or, American Dream.
If all you needed was the contents of a brown bag to make your dreams come true, are you sure you wouldn’t be meeting ‘some kid at night’ too? To what capacity are we allowed to judge how an athlete chooses to provide for himself and the people around him?
Aspire to In….never mind
12.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer per year and 7.6 million of them actually die from the disease. With dire numbers like those, the idea that those affected by the disease could lose hope makes complete sense until …
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!
No… it’s Lance Armstrong on a bike racing up the mountains in France carrying the hopes of every person touched by cancer. We cheered for him, copped his LIVESTRONG apparel and felt that he was the living embodiment of triumph over unspeakable odds. Sure, he took steroids while doing this, but, so what, exactly?! His steroid use shouldn’t take away from his worldwide impact or the way he left a legacy of hope and possibility everywhere he rode. If you really think about it, Lance was a martyr. In return for the hope he gave, he was stripped of his medals, endorsements and millions of dollars.
* excuse me while I put on another ‘LIVESTRONG’ wristband and maillot jaune replica*
” Let Those of Us without Under Armour Cast the First Stone”
So, if I say that Lance is martyr and you (‘you,’ in this case representing the media, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and the legions of fair-weather fans) say he’s a charlatan, really, which of us is able to define and decide what is unethical? Well, WADA says:
“Anti-doping programs seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. This intrinsic value is often referred to as ‘the spirit of sport’…it is how we play true. The spirit of sport is the celebration of the human spirit, body and mind, and is characterized by the following values:
Ethics, fair play and honesty.
Excellence in performance.
Character and education.
Fun and joy.
Dedication and commitment.
Respect for rules and laws.
Respect for self and other participants.
Community and solidarity.
Doping is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport.”
Fair. But how is Lance’s ability to hire a team of scientists to make his body a finely tuned machine any different than athletes that train in thin, mountain air, to make playing on flatland fields a breeze? What about athletes are wearing the latest aerodynamic Under Armor body suit to sweat less, and keep their heart beats lowered? In my tenure as a football player, I drank Pedialyte before and during every game because I knew it had more carbs than water or Gatorade and would give me more energy than my competition. Am I a cheater? Is secret Pedialyte the line in the sand between ‘playing true’ and playing trifling? Or was I just smart and thirsty?
For a host of reasons, misinformation is shading the truth. Here’s the thing, athletes will tell you that (as is the case with altitude training, borrowing your baby brother’s snack and secret bodysuits), if you are not a naturally gifted athlete who trains hard and stays hungry, steroids will never change that. Ever. You are not Jack and steroids are not magic beans that will instantly shape, define or provide your body with the athleticism. They’ll only advance what you’ve been gifted with and that for which you worked.
My point is simple; every athlete is in competition with the human next to, behind, ahead and in front of them. The point of sport is to compete and to win. The way to win is with an advantage–preferably, one your competition knows nothing about until they lie in its wake. Every athlete makes choices about how they choose to advance, so why is the choice to use steroids—as a means to advance and ultimately, win—the thing we’ve deemed as unacceptable? Anabolic steroids have their place within sports. But just like any other drug, they should not be abused.
If WADA and the rest want to truly preserve the spirit of the game, they should do so by acknowledging that every day, athletes will find new ways to gain an edge—THAT is the true spirit of the game. Rather than ignoring and banning that edge, people should seek to understand and regulate it. Create controlled human studies that lay to rest all the myths and rumors that surround anabolic steroid use. In doing so, remove the stigma attached to its use and teach athletes how to do it safely.
* heads to dexters laboratory… for a protein shake, of course *