By Joe Giglio
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From the allegations and names dug up by the Miami New Times, Yahoo! Sports and Sports Illustrated in connection with Biogenesis and the assertions by Curt Schilling, it’s been another insufferable week around the world of sports and performance-enhancing drugs. No matter your stance on Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun or the former Red Sox front-office member who shall not be named, the stories can’t be ignored.
PEDs are a part of sports. It’s why human growth hormone testing is in the NFL and why David Stern wants it in the NBA as early as next season. Beyond HGH lies a world of the unknown, undetectable and far beyond the comprehension of the common fan. Steroids and performance enhancers have been part of sports forever — from “greenies” in the days of Henry Aaron to horse ointment used by the early 90s Cowboys — and will continue to be as long as athletes are intent on competing at the highest level.
The drugs are evolving. The conversation must follow suit. It’s time to stop the anger and disappointment that spews everywhere from airwaves to columns to happy hours. Enough is enough with the steroid and PED disappointment. Let’s change the conversation before it consumes the love of the game.
Baseball is full of cheats. Football probably has more than you can imagine. To think hockey and basketball are “clean” is woefully naive. Testing is just a small part of the equation. Educating young athletes is another. Acceptance is maybe the most crucial, though. It’s not 1923 anymore, folks. Babe Ruth isn’t showing up to the park with a cigar in his mouth and two hot dogs in each hand. Money in sports has exploded to the point where competition for playing time and contract status trumps all. These players will do anything to get ahead.
To an extent, drugs and modern medicine are just the evolution of sports. From Adrian Peterson’s miraculous recovery from knee construction to Peyton Manning’s neck fusion surgery, athletes are granted the ability to continue playing at a high level despite injury.
Despite the obsession we have with ridding professional sports of PEDs, those drugs are part of the evolution. Kobe Bryant is praised for his ability to play at a high level 17 years into a Hall of Fame career. Part of the reason for that is the radical stem cell treatment he received in Germany. The line between legal and illegal supplements and treatments is blurred. Bryant can go to Germany for a knee procedure but Rodriguez can’t rub a cream on his hip? Unless there’s a clear demarcation point, count me out of the firing line on professional athletes.
BALCO and Biogenesis are stories because they surprise and shock us, but the details are just part of how sports work today. Scientists are constantly finding ways to make people feel younger and perform better. It’s just natural that rich, insecure athletes would find their way into those offices. Bud Selig and Roger Goodell can talk all they want about cleaning up the games they oversee, but it’s dog-chasing-tail obsession. Athletes will always be ahead of the curve.
At some point, fans will accept some of these advancements and the playing field will be opened up and evened out. Andy Pettitte once apologized for using human growth hormone to rehabilitate an injury in order to get back on the field and perform. Down the road, that might not be illegal. If doctor’s condone the merit of small, supervised doses of PEDs for rehabilitation and training use, the next generation will make it commonplace.
Eventually, fans need to see the writing on the wall and change the conversation. New questions can and should arise: How harmful can these drugs be? Does it make sense to allow some in small doses? How much performance help can they really provide? Are teams complicit like in the Schilling accusation?
The PED conversation isn’t leaving the sports world anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change the direction of the talking points.
Do PEDs in sports still irk you, or have you grown to accept them? Sound off with your thoughts and comments below…