It seems everyone was so shocked back when the steroid scandal first came to light. How could this be? Not in the American Past-time. Let's investigate! Let's have random testing. Better yet, why not let the paragons of virtue in Congress hold hearings?
I do not know what was more entertaining, the hearings held in front of "I did not inhale" politicians, or the fact that they seemed surprised that baseball players would use drugs to better their game.
Firstly, let's get down to the real reason athletes (not just baseball players) use performance enhancing drugs. They do it to enhance their performance! Duh. Professional sports have changed over the last 40 or 50 years.
Today's sports are about money. Money for the owners, money for the players, money for the television and radio networks. Each player wants to become the best they can be so they can garner the biggest contract they can possibly achieve. Money is the root of all steroids.
Alex Rodriguez has taken performance enhancing drugs during his career! Stop the presses. But he said he never took steroids. What does this mean? It means that A-Rod has fallen into the same trap of many, many professional athletes...They want to be the best, and get the biggest contract possible to take care of themselves and their family. Alex succeeded.
He got the largest contract up to that time that any baseball player ever received. How terrible! Maybe Major League Baseball should ban him for life? Maybe they should ban him from the Hall of Fame? Or maybe they should take a closer look at Major League Baseball, and its history of drug use.
Since the mid 1980s MLB has had players using steroids. Yeah, yeah, I know, steroids did not start until the early '90s. Dream on. Steroids were being used in the '80s (how else could someone like Howard Johnson hit 36 home runs in a season), they just did not become the drug of choice until the early '90s.
When players first started using steroids they were told they would make then bigger, stronger, faster, and make them the best they could be. They were not banned by any professional sport.
Why? Because no one knew the terrible, long term effects of persistent steroid use until Lyle Alzado showed how you can go from the Incredible Hulk to emaciated cancer victim he became at the end of his life at the early age of 43.
Once the dangers of steroids was known, one would think that players would run from them. Instead, like smoking, they continued to use them with the overlying feeling that "It can't happen to me." They went to places like Balco to get new, and improved steroids that will not hurt me (or so they think now even though it is too early to tell if there will be any long term damage). I guess we will find out in about 15 years.
The surprise everyone showed when they found out players were using drugs to enhance their game, is so hypocritical. Let's not let steroid users into the Hall of Fame. Why? Just because they used steroids in an era when many others were using them? Not every player that used steroids became great.
Just ask Jeremy Giambi or for that matter Jose Canseco. They may have had a good year or two, but it did not make them Hall of Famers. It made them the best they could be, with the talent they were born with. The price they will pay may be that they get to spend fewer years on the planet.
For all of the "Old School" fans that rant about these rotten steroid users and how they should not be allowed in baseball, or other sports, because they taint the game. They seem to either have short memories or they just choose to turn a blind eye to reality. Drugs have been in sports, particularly in baseball, for a long, long time.
Does anyone really think that Mickey Mantle was not using performance enhancing drugs (aka Speed) just to get through some of those days when he debauched himself so much the night before? The Mick is an icon. One of the greatest of all times. Do we boot him out of the Hall for using drugs, or is it only certain drugs that we do not like?
I am not advocating the use of steroids or any drug. I see it as one of the biggest problems facing high school athletes today. They take the steroids to enhance their game in order to get a scholarship to college. Again, the impetus of the steroid use is money. The pressure to excel is only out driven by the need for money.
Fans of professional sports should be willing to accept much of the blame for the use of steroids or any other performance enhancing drug. The fans demand the best. The owners need to put the best entertainment on the field if they are to bring fans to the stadium in order for the teams to make money.
Players need to excel if they want the lucrative contracts. Each one of us is guilty of keeping the pressure on the teams and the athletes.
As long as the fans demand the best, they must be willing to accept the worst.
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