Thursday, February 21, 2013

Steroids, Part III - The Problems With Legalization

Its gotten to the point where I'm sitting at my desk and all I can think about is the PED questions. And I say to myself, "man, steroids are ruining the game."

Are they, though?  Did they "ruin" the home run chase of '98?  No.  Did they ruin watching Olympic athletes like Marion Jones and Maurice Greene claim gold for USA?  Well, wait a minute, yes, actually.

So what the hell do we do now?  We're right back where we started, then.  How can I think they make one aspect of a sport so great when they completely tear down another?  That's absolutely not to say baseball should use steroids.  
I have read through several arguments that state PEDs should be legal all across the board.  A couple supporting examples include the advent of modern medicine, i.e. cortizone shots, Tommy John surgery, and how those things weren't readily available 50 years ago.  Complete legalization would also eliminate all uncertainty about which players are gaining an edge.  Some say PEDs should be allowed in the recovery process, which sounds ridiculous, but as a fan, think about it.  A player gets hurt and there is a guaranteed way to get back on the field faster.  Here's my issue, and its another example of why there is no right or wrong solution to this whole mess.

To be a professional athlete, you have to want it more than anything.  More than your opponents, more than your teammates.  Its competitiveness that drives the games and that drives fans to the games.  Its competitiveness that allows PEDs to even play a role.  You have a player like Albert Pujols, a model baseball player, who as far as we know is clean and is the only baseball player I believe I can safely use in these examples, who is still better than some guys who are rampant steroid users.  So what are they going to do?  Train a little harder, sure, but they're going to use any and all means to get to the end -- to be the best.

Think about the amateur level.  Players who have not yet broken through as a professional but who so desperately want that glory, will risk life and limb, testicles and man boobs to get to the top.  American society has dictated sports culture, and now the tables have turned.  We see parents driving their kids into the ground, forcing them into sports and forcing them to be the best there ever was.  We see full scholarships up for grabs for being good at shooting an orange ball into an orange circle, or for being able to hit a white ball of tightly wound string with a piece of wood further than the next guy.  
That's a lot of pressure for a kid, and it could affect the one who really does want to be the best, all the way down to the one who thinks he never will be.  When they can't throw two miles per hour faster, or when they can't grab the rim with both hands, where will they turn?

It would be the downfall of sports.  These drugs would be more easily accessible to any athlete, and it would raise football-field sized red flags in the morality sector.  Say I'm an athlete who doesn't want to take steroids, how do I get on the field?  Maybe I don't.  There's a trickle-down effect that sports has on us.  When I played Little League, I was a second baseman.  I'll always remember my friend Sam at shortstop, who played the position out of his love for his favorite player, Nomar Garciaparra.  He would make the same flashy plays on routine ground balls.  He would adjust his batting gloves 35,000 times for no reason when he'd step into the box.  What if Nomar had been like every other player in a PED-ridden league?  Would 11-year-old Sam be taking steroids?

PEDs have been the cause of endless contention in sports today, but what if they were legalized?  Would that solve the problem or make it worse?

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