August 1, 2014

The hypocrisy of drugs in sports


In the last 24 hours Chris Perez has been arrested for possession of pot, and Josh Gordon has been suspended for testing positive for having codeine in his system that was from cough syrup prescribed by his doctor. Go back to last fall and we can add Joe Haden to the list of high profile Cleveland athletes that have had drug related off the field issues after he served a four game suspension for testing positive for Adderall in his system.

As a fan, all of these events upset me because I want my favorite teams to have their best players on the field at all times. By getting suspended these guys let their teammates down, themselves down, and whether they know it or not they let their fans down.

These events have caused outraged sports fans to take to the internet and the airwaves of talk radio to express their disappointment, anger, and downright hatred for the gladiators they’re used to cheering.

major-league-commissioners

The commissioners of America’s major sports gather in front of congress.

At the end of the day that’s really all they are to us fans is gladiators — gladiators fighting so we can feel better about ourselves, our city, and so we can have bragging rights. To me there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s part of what sports is. But if we’re going to cheer when Tim Couch gets hurt, when T.J. Ward takes off Jordan Shipley’s head, or when Turkey Jones drops Terry Bradshaw on his dome it’s hard to argue that we as fans really care about the well being the athletes on the field.

I, as I’m sure many other did, cringed when James Harrison knocked out Colt McCoy on Thursday Night Football. It was a violent act in a violent game, but the reality of it is if knocking Colt out of the game would have led way to a better performing quarterback taking snaps for the Brownies I’d be fine with that Harrison hit every time.

As fans we want results. Sure we love the narratives, and the emotions that go along with sports — that gives it the drama we all love. But at the end of the day we want our players to be better than the players on the opposing team.

We get bent out of shape because we want the sports we love to be “clean” and to preserve the “integrity of the game”. But do we really?

The MLB was at the height of its popularity when guys were crushing homers and mashing forearms in the 90’s juicing all along the way. Backlash followed as the MLB and the federal government spent millions of dollars trying to clean the game of steroids.

Now, steroids seem to be a thing of the past and HGH is the flavor of the month. In a few years HGH will be out of the league and something else will help athletes reach their max potential. This notion that if we can keep athletes away from “performance enhancing” substances the game will be better is just foolish. So you can’t take steroids, you can’t take HGH, but you can keep a tub of whey protein in your locker? Wouldn’t anything beneficial you put into your body be considered performance enhancing?

Joe Haden was suspended for testing positive for Adderall, the same substance thousands of parents shove down their kids throats each and every day. It’s good enough for our children, but don’t dare let our gladiators near that stuff.

Perez’s fate is still to be determined following his arrest for possession of marijuana, but I heard callers on both ESPNCleveland and 92.3 The Fan demanding the Indians get rid of Perez because you “can’t have a guy like that on your team.” Oddly enough I don’t hear fans in Detroit calling for Miguel Cabrera’s head despite his known struggles with alcohol, the most dangerous and deadliest drug of them all. Of course, Miguel Cabrera isn’t blowing games for Detroit, he’s the best hitter in the game.

I’m tired of people sitting up on their high horses saying what a person can or can not do with their bodies. If an athlete wants to take to risks associated with putting something in their body, than that’s their risk that they are willing to take. If we really cared about the athlete’s well being we wouldn’t bitch and moan about the new rules in the NFL or NBA that are meant to protect the league’s stars, we’d embrace them. And if the NFL really cared about the well being of their players they wouldn’t be pushing to expand the number of games they play.

The bottom line is we all care about the athletes when it’s convenient for us to care. Let’s all take a step off of our giant, noble stallions and stop saying what is clean and what isn’t, what’s cheating and what’s not, and what’s moral and what’s immoral.

I watch professional sports to watch the biggest, fastest, strongest athletes performing at their peak potential. I’d rather see a Usain Bolt on every performance enhancing substance you could find run a sub 9.0 second 100m dash than watch someone “clean” win the gold running closer to 10 seconds.

I want to watch the best competitors compete. And if being blazed on the mound makes them pitch better, taking Adderall gets them up and makes them focus harder, or rubbing deer antler spray on their bodies makes them heal faster then so be it.

If they aren’t hurting anyone else then it doesn’t matter a damn bit to me.

  • Jason Hurley

    Isn’t the biggest hole in the “Let’s all take a step off of our giant, noble stallions and stop saying what is clean and what isn’t, what’s cheating and what’s not, and what’s moral and what’s immoral.” bit that it’s clearly defined by the leagues and or state/federal law what is right and wrong?

    In the case of Haden, Cooper, and Perez, either the league (in Haden and Cooper’s cas) or law (Perez) has deemed their activity against the rules. I don’t see many moral high-horses – just some guys breaking the rules who got caught.

    This feels like the Peter Griffin segment from Family Guy – “You Know What Really Grinds My Gears?”

  • Garry_Owen

    *Gordon

  • Garry_Owen

    I guess all of this is fine, until it’s your son or daughter trying to be “the best.” And I think that’s ultimately where the moral outrage begins. We want our sports to be “pure,” because we all know the pure joy that comes in experiencing them, mostly as kids. And as kids, we dreamed of being able to rise to the pinnacle of sport, and only accepted that we never would simply because someone else was either willing to work harder or was simply more gifted. When it comes to my kids (and their friends), I want them to have the same experience, and not think that there’s an “easy out” by destroying themselves (artificially, as long years of clean sport sure takes a toll).

    It’s fine to say that we want to see the “best,” but at some point, if PEDs are unhindered, we won’t really know what we’re seeing. Ultimately, it’s thus also about sport itself. Except for “the children,” I frankly don’t care about athletes or their bodies; but I do care about football, baseball, cycling, running, etc, etc.

  • Tom T.

    From a legal perspective, I agree with what you’re saying – as long as your actions don’t harm someone else, carry on. But with sports, my biggest worry with an “anything goes” drug policy is that building a winning team would be less a product of smart roster decisions, good coaching, and adept game-planning and more a product of who hires the best doctors/chemists/pharmacists to drug up their players. Obviously any legal/illegal cutoff is going to have some arbitrariness associated with it, but I think we can all recognize that there are differences between dietary supplements to enhance fitness and anabolic steroids that propelled 38-year olds into career years

  • https://twitter.com/jimkanicki jimkanicki

    John Matuszak, Lyle Alzado, and Barret Robbins would like to talk to you about this piece except that they can’t.

  • Jason Hurley

    So corrected – thank you sir.

  • NeedsFoodBadly

    So if we do embrace rules meant to protect players and don’t wish for our players’ heads torn off by James Harrison, does that mean we can be against PEDs?

  • James

    Alcohol is not the deadliest drug, if you looked at the numbers on a case by case basis I am sure a drug like heroin is more deadly than alcohol. You can’t label alcohol as the deadliest when it is legal and more people try it than heroin

  • HRD53

    Yea, I thought the same thing when I read that… Percentage wise, i’m sure that heroin is far more ‘dangerous’ and ‘deadly’ to the people that use it than alcohol. This article, in general, sounds like it was born from a drunken conversation… i’m alright with someone being contrarian, but this just seems more like an empty rant than anything else.

  • fortherecord

    Alcohol is by far the deadliest drug. It’s not even close. Deadliest defined by kills the most people. If we go by your suggested case by case example, then how about cyanide ? It’s not the most likely to kill you if you take it drug, it’s the one responsible for the most deaths.

  • mgbode

    here’s one of the issues with what you say not addressed in the comments yet:

    the last 2 paragraphs suggest you are fine with professional athletes breaking laws. not just rules (like Gordon with a prescription for codeine), but laws (Adderrall w/o prescription, HGH, steroids, weed, etc.).

    other issues include how things start to spill into the younger levels (G_O), cartoonish development of atheletes (TomT), how it would force professional athletes to take these drugs and potentially shorten their lives(kanicki), and how a growing segment of fans do want to see sports be both safer and drug-free (NFB).

    I agree you cannot fully root out PEDs. However, you can put in deterrents and do your best to keep these billion dollar industries as clean as possible. Unless we want all of our professional sports to be like professional wrestling where we become more impressed that Hulk Hogan is still alive at 59yo than anything he actually did.

  • Dr. Zhivago

    According to the CDC, alcohol is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death in the United States. In any given year, the number of deaths caused by alcohol is greater than the number deaths caused by all illicit drugs combined. This doesn’t even take into consideration all patients with severe, alcohol-related health issues. Heroin overdose may be more likely to result in a fatality, but the number of users is minuscule in comparison to the number consuming alcohol.

    The writer is correct here. Sorry, James. Do some research before you make anymore bold comments. It’ll make you look better.

    Doc Z

  • mgbode

    you completely missed his point. James point (I believe) was that alcohol is legal and therefore more people are using (and abusing). that gives the sheer number of deaths rather than the deadliness of some of the other drugs.

    what is the deadliest snake in the world? is it the snake that has killed the most people or the one most likely to kill you if bitten by it?