Western Courier

Time to stop forbidding steroids

Barry+Bonds+follows+through+after+a+swing+at+the+plate.
Barry Bonds follows through after a swing at the plate.

Barry Bonds follows through after a swing at the plate.

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Barry Bonds follows through after a swing at the plate.

Joshua Defibaugh, Copy Editor

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Most readers are probably unaware, but there has been a months-long joke going on in the Western Courier office this semester. I told the sports editors that my last piece to ever be published in this newspaper will be a no-holds-barred, full-throated defense of using steroids and other performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) in sports. Well, here it is, Mat and Devon. I hope you’re happy.

The principle problem I have with sports in general — besides American football’s violence and disregard for player safety and the National Hockey League’s propensity to encourage violence in its players — is boredom. I can’t think of a single person who has sat through an entire baseball game to just watch the game. If a pitcher does the best job he can do, fans are essentially there to watch a 3-hour game of catch. When it comes to basketball, the only thing that can be said is that broken legs and sneaker squeaks are often more exciting than the game itself.

Consider, though, some recent famous baseball names: Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens, David Ortiz, Many Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds. What do they all have in common? They’ve either admitted to using steroids and other PEDs or have been implicated by either testimonies or investigations.

McGwire was just 35 years old when, in 1998, he demolished the single-season homerun record. In 2010, though, he publicly admitted to using steroids for a large part of his professional career.

Alex Rodriguez, one of the most famous players in sports history, who hit nearly 700 homeruns, batted in over 2,000 runs and earned over 3000 hits, denied using steroids at first, but then admitted to using PEDs in 2009. Sosa and Bonds, who both earned over 600 homeruns, both used steroids.

The “problem” extends to other sports, too. One of the only reasons Americans care about bicycling is because Lance Armstrong won seven consecutive Tour de France championships from 1999 to 2005. In 2012, though, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) concluded that Armstrong had used PEDs throughout much of his career. They also named Armstrong the leader of, “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” A tough act to follow, for sure.

The only reason for banning steroids and PEDs I’ve seen and heard from sports aficionados is that they give players an unfair advantage. Major sports organizations hand down suspensions and penalties left and right, but it doesn’t work. Athletes still juice up to hit that ball or pedal faster and harder than anyone in history. Isn’t that what sports are about?

To watch Sosa, Bonds, Ortiz, Clemens or McGwire play the game was to watch the pinnacle of human strength. To watch Armstrong pedal up the hill and cross the finish line in record time was to marvel at the apex of endurance. It’s time to legalize and even encourage PEDs and steroids in sports.

Not only would doing so push humans past their own limits to achieve higher levels of ability, it would also encourage scientists to develop safer and more effective PEDs. There’s also the business argument.

People like me — who could not care less about sports these days — were at least curious about Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire in the late 90s when it became evident that they were on the verge of something amazing. And, as Chris Smith noted in Forbes in 2012, “jerseys flew off the shelves, games sold out and baseball was so exciting that some have gone so far as to claim it ruined post-steroid baseball.”

Allowing PEDs makes sense. It would end the bureaucratic nightmare of monitoring their use. It wouldn’t just level the playing field, it would raise it. It could engage more fans who have grown bored of the sports. Finally, it would show just how far humans can go, and then go further.

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Time to stop forbidding steroids