Drug-using Athletes Do Most Harm To Children

On February 13th, the day before Valentine's Day, The Chicago Tribune carried a story by sports writer, Rob Gloster. The article was about how four men were accused of providing steroids to dozens of athletes in the NFL, the major leagues and track and field.

On general principles I believe the drug war is ridiculous and that it does more harm than good. So if people want to risk taking dangerous drugs, that's their business. A most basic human right is the right to own one's own body. People have always used drugs to wake up, to go to sleep, to lower inhibitions, or to calm jittery nerves. As Jacob Sullum pointed out in "Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use", millions of people are quite capable of using drugs responsibly.

I draw the line however, as does Sullum, when someone else's drug use endangers other people. You know what I mean. Drink if you want to, but don't drive while intoxicated.

It could be argued that athletes should be allowed to use whatever drugs they choose as long as they are not harming anyone else. You might say, "That's their business. Their bodies belong to them. So what? Who are they harming, besides themselves?"

Kids, that's who. For as long as I can remember, athletes have been held up as role models for the youth of America.

Rarely do I agree with John Ashcroft on just about anything. But on this one I do agree with him. "Illegal steroid use calls into question not only the integrity of the athletes who use them, but also the integrity of the sports that those athletes play."

I suppose we could level the playing field if all athletes were allowed to take the drugs of their choice. Then the competition would be between drug companies to produce the most effective performance-enhancing drugs.

Why do some athletes risk liver damage, mood swings from suicidal depression to homicidal aggression, baldness, infertility, heart disease, high blood pressure, blood clots and early death? I wish I had a dime for every time I've said "The more important it is to win, the more likely it is that players will cheat." Using performance-enhancing steroids is a way to cheat and get away with it. According to Rob Gloster, many of the designer drugs are almost impossible to detect.

One reason some athletes are willing to take the risk of using these drugs in spite of the potentially very dangerous side effects might be because their fans demand that they win a game or break a previous record. Maybe I should say their audiences want them to perform, to put on a show for their entertainment. It seems that sports events have become more and more like theater, without the integrity of theater, without the honesty of theater. In theater we all know it's a performance meant to entertain us. We all know the actors and actresses are not the characters they play. We all know it's not for real. Sports events however have become the ultimate reality "show".

Maybe it's the trainers who are the real culprits. Sometimes the athletes themselves aren't even aware they're taking these harmful drugs. Their trainers say, "Here, take these and don't worry about it". Their trainers give them designer drugs that cannot be detected and the athletes don't know what's in them. Yeah, right. I've never thought of athletes as being particularly bright, but come on, they're not that stupid.

—M. LaCourt

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