It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How you Play the Game
St. Louis University, School for Professional Studies
Advanced Strategies of Rhetoric & Research
July 8, 2013
It’s Not Whether You Win or Lose, It’s How You Play the Game
Most people here on this beautiful planet aspire to be successful. There are many different measures of that success. To some it may be money, to others fame or recognition. For some folks it may be the simple fact that they have a family that loves them and is proud of them. The success that professional athletes achieve affords them all of those things. They are normally paid generous salaries, they gain admiration from their fans, and they exceed many of the expectations of those close to them. But at what cost? What lengths will they go to in order to acquire that success? A handful of these athletes, many of them household names, have used illegal steroids to climb the ladder to the top. More than 30 elite athletes—including Olympian Marion Jones and MLB players Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield—testified before a grand jury investigating the use of an “undetectable” steroid being distributed by the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative. Despite the well-known side effects of anabolic steroids, use among athletes is widespread. Why do they do it? Some would say that it is the pressure put on the professionals by the sport, the managers, and the fans. Others might say there has always been illicit activity in the world of professional sports. Even though there is pressure to be the best and to make the most, steroid use is cheating and in addition to physically and psychologically damaging athletes, it is tarnishing professional sports by teaching fans that it is okay to cheat if you are getting payment and recognition through it.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports is widespread. The use of these drugs can now be found in nearly every professional sport. Although sluggers like Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco, and Mark McGwire made headlines for their use of steroids while playing in the MLB, recent news has opened the eyes of the public in other sports. Lance Armstrong, after seven consecutive Tour de France wins, admitted to doping. Shawne Merriman was a first round draft pick for the San Diego Chargers in 2005. In 2006 he was suspended by the NFL for his use of anabolic steroids. Olympic athletes have also been caught using or admitted to steroid use. After Canadian Ben Johnson flew past his competitors in the 100-meter run in the 1988 summer Olympics, officials rescinded his gold medal when a urine test revealed steroids in Johnson's system. His natural testosterone level was only 15 percent of a normal male's. One of the most decorated and well-known female track and field athletes, Marion Jones, admitted to steroid use in October 2007. The use of performance enhancing drugs is becoming common place in our society and the time to stop it is now.
By using performance enhancing drugs, professional athletes are sending a message to the youth of today that steroid use is an acceptable way to win. Some might say that athletes are not role models. That it is not the responsibility of professional athletes to teach our children. They say is a parent’s job to teach their children that cheating is wrong. Sure, parents teach children that lying is wrong. They teach them morals and values and hope that what they have instilled in them sticks. Then one day, those children turn on the news and see that the baseball player (or hockey player, Olympian, etc.) they have idolized for years has been using steroids. The only reason that player hit all of those home runs and surpassed all previous records was because they cheated. The behavior and actions of steroid using ball players, cyclists’ and Olympians is teaching the children that steroid use is a good way to get ahead. The blatant disregard for the rules and consequences is leaving a lasting impact on future athletes. Since the professionals are using performance enhancing drugs, kids are beginning to look to steroids as a way to boost their own performance. Several national youth surveys estimate steroid use by high school boys at 4-6%, up to 12% in one study, and about 2% for girls. And the numbers are rising. "I'd say 500,000 to 600,000 kids in the U.S. have used these drugs at some time," says researcher Charles Yesalis, professor of exercise and sport science at Penn State. "Right now steroid use is at an all-time high".These athletes are setting the wrong example for children and teaching them the only way to become the biggest, the fastest, or the best is by using steroids. Whether these super stars signed up to be role models or not, the truth of the matter is young fans aspire to be like them. Athletes’ using performance enhancing drugs are inadvertently teaching the youth of today it steroid use is acceptable.
It is not just the children of today that are affected by steroid use. Doping affects the integrity of sport. Sport is not simply winning. The saying “it’s not about whether you win or lose, it’s how you played the game,” is absolutely correct. The World Anti- Doping Agency (WADA) was founded on the principle that integrity of sport is fundamental to the spirit of sport, and that integrity is threatened by doping. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) division on anti-doping believes that “doping jeopardizes the moral and ethical basis of sport and the health of those involved in it” . The National Football League created its own steroid policy because steroid use threatens “the fairness and integrity of athletic competition” and “sends the wrong message to young people who may be tempted to use them.” Sports are about competing on equal footing, with respect for the opponent, and with respect for the rules of the game . These are things that should all go without saying. The fact that we must have steroid policies in place should be enough to make society realize the problem is steadily growing out of control.
By using performance enhancing drugs, these athletes are giving themselves an unfair advantage and disregarding the integrity of sport. Yes, they can hit the ball harder, jump higher and grow stronger. But what about the other guy? It is not fair or just to the athlete that is naturally talented, but does not have the edge that steroids have given his competitor. One star player who has spoken out public against doping in professional sports is Jeff Kent. Kent is a retired Major League Baseball second baseman. He won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2000 with the San Francisco Giants, and is the all-time leader in home runs among second basemen. Kent said in a 2005 Article in the San Francisco Chronicle “Do I feel cheated? All the non-users feel cheated. I think in a silent way, a lot of people who hadn't cheated over the years are happy with the way the media exposed the problem, and they're happy we're making progress toward evening the playing field". Kent is an athlete that the fans should honor. He earned his records fair and square. In addition gaining achievements in sport, he has used his achievement to shine a spotlight on steroid users. Some people think the solution to the steroid issue is to legalize steroid use in professional sports. They claim by legalizing use and allowing all players the equal opportunity to boost their performance, it will make for a level playing field. Brent Musburger, an ABC and ESPN sports commentator told a group of students at University of Montana that steroids work. Musburger blamed “journalism youngsters” who “got too deeply involved in something they didn’t know too much about” for the negative image steroids and doping now have. He went on to say that steroids had no place in high school but “under the proper care and doctor’s advice, they could be used at the professional level” . Doping, least of all in the form of anabolic steroids, has no place in sports – amateur or professional.
In addition to setting a poor example for young fans, doping threatens the health of the athletes that use them. Musburger argues that with proper medical supervision, steroids can be healthy. While this might be true in some limited cases, it would certainly not be true in all cases. The official journal of the World Psychiatric Association states the use of steroids can have serious health repercussions, including affected liver, endocrine and reproductive function, tumors of the liver and kidneys, heart conditions and psychiatric symptoms. Additionally, the journal goes on to mention the increased probability of side effects when steroids are used more than the recommended dose, used in conjunction with other performance enhancing substances, and counterfeit or tainted steroids are used .
The health risks of anabolic steroids don’t stop there. The frequency and severity of side effects is quite variable. It depends on several factors such as type of drug, dosage, duration of use and the individual sensitivity and response. A well-known side effect of anabolic steroid use in males is breast formation (gynecomastia). Gynecomastia is caused by increased levels of circulating estrogens, which are typical female sex hormones. The estrogens estradiol and estrone are formed in males by peripheral aromatization and conversion of AS. The increased levels of circulation estrogens in males stimulate breast growth. In general, gynecomastia is irreversible.In addition to the physical effects of steroids, there are also psychological effects. Increased testosterone levels in the blood are associated with masculine behavior, aggressiveness and increased sexual desire. Increased aggressiveness may be beneficial for athletic training, but may also lead to overt violence outside the gym or the track. There are reports of violent, criminal behavior in individuals taking steroids. Other side effects of anabolic steroids are euphoria, confusion, sleeping disorders, pathological anxiety, paranoia, and hallucinations .
One example of the physical and psychological toll steroid use can take on an athlete is the case of Ken Caminiti. Caminiti was one of the game's best third basemen for most of his career, winning three straight Gold Gloves from 1997-1999 with the Padres. He was the first star player to admit to using steroids. In a 2002 Sports Illustrated article, Ken told Tom Verducci he used steroids during his 1996 NL MVP campaign to recover from a shoulder injury. During the 1996 season, Caminiti had career highs across the board; hitting .326, socking 40 homers and 130 RBIs. He had never hit more than 29 homers in a season. He told Verducci that he felt bigger, faster and stronger while on steroids quickly deflating any myth about juicing not making a player better—the proof is right there on the back of the baseball card. Ken had a history of substance abuse and died of a cocaine overdose on October 10, 2004. He was 41 years old . Some athletes, both amateur and professional, intend to use steroids for only a short time. Maybe they just want to get through that one game, through the series, or through the season. Unfortunately, most of them get hooked. Even though anabolic steroids do not cause the same high as other drugs, steroids are reinforcing and can lead to addiction. Studies have shown that animals will self-administer steroids when given the opportunity, just as they do with other addictive drugs. People may persist in abusing steroids despite physical problems and negative effects on social relationships, reflecting these drugs’ addictive potential. If an athlete has the will power to stop using, they are often faced with withdrawal symptoms similar to that of any other drug user. Symptoms include mood swings, fatigue and restlessness, loss of appetite, insomnia, and cravings for steroids. One of the most dangerous symptoms of steroid withdrawal is depression. When persistent, depression can lead to suicide attempts. When withdrawal spirals out of control, the consequences can be dire. An example of the tragedy steroid use can bring is Taylor Hooton. Hooton was expected to join the starting rotation in the spring of 2004 for the Plano West Senior High School. Taylor was described as a good kid who was well liked. He had good friends and no serious emotional problems. He was a star athlete with a bright future. Sadly, that future will never come. On July 15, 2003 Taylor Hooton killed himself. The authorities ruled the death a suicide by hanging. His parents and a doctor familiar with the case said they believe that Taylor’s death was related to depression that he felt upon discontinuing the use of anabolic steroids. Taylor was not the first athlete whose death was believed to be related to the psychological effects of steroid use. Suicide attempts related to steroid withdrawal are ''more common than most people suspect,'' Dr. Harrison Pope, a Harvard psychiatrist who has done extensive research on steroids, said. In August 1989, Eric Elofson of Bakersfield, Calif., hung himself from a tree in his front yard. He had stopped using Dianabol about a month before his suicide, his parents wrote in a journal, The Physician and Sports Medicine. (Longman, 2003) It is a sad reality that these young stars had such promising futures that were never realized due to steroid use. They had both tried to stop using and take the high road.
Fortunately, the punishments for use of illegal performance enhancing drugs are becoming stricter. In 2006 when Shawne Merriman tested positive for steroids he received a four game suspension for violation the NFL’s steroids and related substances policy. In 2004, Major League Baseball allowed five positive tests before there was serious punishment. The minimal punishments of the past are about to end. In January of this year Yankees’ third baseman Alex Rodriguez was accused of obtaining performance enhancing drugs for the Biogenesis anti-aging clinic in Florida. Although action has not yet been taken against A-Rod or any of the other players who appeared in the clinics records, it is coming. This time it will be more severe. All involved could face a 50-game suspension as part of the MLB’s drug policy for first-time offenders, though there is a possibility that Rodriguez could suffer a 100-game suspension issued to repeat offenders as he has admitted to steroid use in the past without receiving any punishment.
In addition to the punishment that the leagues impose, federal, state and local governments are starting to impose strict penalties. The possession or sale of anabolic steroids without a valid prescription is illegal. Simple possession of illicitly obtained anabolic steroids carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a minimum $1,000 fine if this is an individual’s first drug offense. While these penalties are for federal offenses, individual states have also implemented fines and penalties for illegal use of anabolic steroids. State executive offices have also recognized the seriousness of steroid abuse and other drugs of abuse in schools. The State of Virginia, for example, enacted a law that will allow student drug testing as a legitimate school drug prevention program. Some other states and individual school districts are considering implementing similar measures .
At what point will society stop allowing this “Winning at any cost attitude?” There is no debate that anabolic steroids will make you run faster, hit harder and grow bigger. But what is the trade off? Steroid use threatens the integrity of sport. It allows athletes to gain an unfair advantage over others in competition. This form of doping is cheating and is fundamentally contrary to the spirit of sport. Further, the use of steroids robs athletes who play by the rules of their right to competition that is safe and fair. It does not just affects top athletes, but youths influenced by what the stars do. It is a growing problem of public health proportion that cannot be ignored by any country or any sport. The days when children could look to athletes as role models are over. Only by taking a concerted and comprehensive approach to fight against steroid us in sport is it possible to protect the integrity of sport and the health of athletes and youth worldwide.
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