By Ryan Daugherty
Nowadays, no matter what the sport is, you almost have to assume that most athletes are taking some form of performance-enhancing drugs.
It seems as if every other week a different athlete’s name is scrolling across the bottom of ESPN for having been caught using PEDs. Over the past few years, many iconic names have been linked to steroids, most notably Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds.
While the results on the field have taken a turn for the better, the results off the field have taken a turn for the worse.
Barry Bonds has had arguably the most impressive resume of any baseball player in major league history, yet this last month, voters rejected him into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Lance Armstrong had all of his Tour de France medals stripped away and is banned from professional cycling for life.
So why do these athletes risk a lifetime of criticism for only a few years of greatness with an asterisk tied to it? Pressure may have something to do with it.
Athletes are expected to perform at the highest possible level every single night and fans opinions of them can change on a single play.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez said he felt like he had the “weight of the world” on top of him and that he needed to perform at a “high level on an everyday basis.”
Now it is understandable that these athletes get overwhelmed by pressure and go through many processes to get better. However, using steroids to increase athletic ability is never a line that should be crossed.
It’s like answering the first 40 questions of a test and looking at someone else’s paper for the last 10 answers. You knew enough to make a B, but you had to look somewhere else to get an A. It’s far more impressive to earn a B than to make an unearned A.
PEDs don’t only add strength and athleticism. There are severe health risks as well. Side effects of a common steroid, known as an anabolic steroid, in both men and women include increased risk of tendonitis, heart and circulatory problems, depression, liver tumors and many other abnormalities.
Just recently, a bizarre story came out about how deer-antler spray had been tied with Alabama Crimson Tide football players and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis.
Deer-antler spray includes a banned substance called IGF-1, an insulin growth factor.
According to Alex Diamond, the assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the IGF-1 is dangerous and can cause liver disease and cardiomyopathy, a heart disease.
Not only do athletes who use PEDs hurt themselves, they also hurt the people that support them the most: their fans. To see your childhood hero or sports idol being accused as a cheater is highly disheartening.
Athletes represent far more than high-end talents at their sport. They are role models for the fans who admire their ambition and strive for greatness.
Baylor juniors Quinton Porter and Joshua Gates both agree that steroids are unfair and unnecessary to the sport.
“I’d feel cheated,” Porter said. “Finding out an athlete used steroids is a quick way to expunge every record they set and make them nondescript because of their unfair advantage.”
For Gates, he feels the same way even though his opinion of cyclist Lance Armstrong didn’t drastically change.
“I don’t approve of it, but I don’t hate Lance because he took them simply because everyone else did too, so he was on a level playing field,” Gates said.
Of course, a common question is if there is a way to stop athletes from taking PEDs.
The answer is that there isn’t a way to stop them.
Clearly suspending athletes for being caught using PEDs hasn’t made quite the impact that it should.
There needs to be far more severe consequences, such as banishment from the sport. Just as Armstrong’s situation, if one is going to suffer the worst consequence, then all should suffer the same consequence.
Sadly, over time we won’t be able to enjoy watching a sport without wondering which athletes are taking PEDs and which are not. Instead, we will sit and wait for the next list of athletes who will be listed not as stars of their sport, but as cheaters.