The modern athlete is today's epitome of physical greatness.
They have trained their body to resemble machines, requiring regulated diets and even more structured training regiments. In baseball, the athletes body must be conditioned to endure a 162 game schedule in a little over 180 days. Rigorous back to backs, long road trips and brutal heat pushes their body to a level of fatigue that would leave the rest of us crippled.
Anyone who has played a grueling nine-inning game knows how hard it is to get up the next day and do it again. You need an extra boost, because the natural body is not fit to endure such suffering. This is why steroids were the perfect fit for baseball, because they trick your body into ignoring fatigue and allow you to outwork the competition. It was the edge that was so readily available, and human nature suggests that in an extremely competitive field when the opportunity arises to separate yourself, you give that option good consideration.
Many players took the gamble, and humans being normally focused on the short term, I cannot blame them for jeopardizing their future for the glorification of the prime of their life. Essentially, they are not hurting anyone but themselves, and it is a price they pay in order to perform better for us the viewer. In an abstract way they are athletic martyrs, sacrificing the long term health of their body to display the pinnacle of athleticism.
Alex Rodriguez gave into the peer pressure that was boiling during the steroid era.
A naturally gifted player, all his beautiful swing needed was a few extra muscles to turn him into one of the most productive players in the history of the game. He would have been a great player regardless, but steroids allowed him to reach the potential of his training when a normal body would quit. Steroids do not make a bad player good, as many of the names on the Mitchell report suggest, but they do give a gifted athlete an incredible edge.
How can we continually blame them for taking that edge when millions of dollars were on the line? Can you really say you wouldn't take that leap if you were in their shoes?
Anyone who could potentially secure the financial stability of the rest of their life would have a hard time turning such an offer down. Once again, you must put yourself in their shoes, not your own, to truly appreciate how pressure packed this dilemma was for an aspiring or established major leager.
Here is why I applaud Rodriguez:
When he learned that his dark secret had been revealed, he didn't turn to an attorney to prepare a defense or dream up some elaborate lie, he simply told us the truth. He told us he made a mistake, and he was asking for forgiveness.
Barry Bonds has denied allegations for years, even when the vast majority knew he had taken steroids.
Rafael Palmiero told us straight faced that he had never used steroids, only to look like a sincere liar a few months later.
Pete Rose denied his behavior when his guilt was obvious.
Most of the time, the best the media will get is a "no comment." So lying is okay, but mistakes aren't? I think we have set a dangerous moral standard for our future athletes.
Mistakes are a part of any venue of life, and usually aren't appreciated as mistakes until you have hindsight to reveal them. If we expect that athletes won't make mistakes, we are putting them on a pedestal that even their leaping ability could not attain. What we can expect though is honesty. We should demand honesty, and condemn liars for being too insecure to admit their faults.
We should accept apologies with consequences, because you only learn from a mistake when something is lost. Its kind of like when you were a growing teenager and your parents asked you if you were drinking at all. We all denied it at first, some of us more fervently than others, but we eventually either got caught in the act or caved in and told them. They are probably still a few of us who still haven't told their parents because they never got caught and want to maintain the golden child status.
The reputation of so many players was ruined by the Mitchell Report. It was like a high school principle getting his hands on a list of kids who were drinking at a party. They got that horrible feeling that brews inside of you when someone finds out you were cheating; whether it is the law or a game the feeling is just as painful.
Fans have to realize that professional athletes are prone to every human flaw known to man. They make mistakes, errors in judgement, and sometimes just flat lost their temper. Some choose to defend their images, deny allegations and lie their way out of a mistake. Others take a higher road, one that removes the guilt from the depths of the heart—honesty.
So the next time an athlete's mistakes are revealed, don't condemn the fault because you are bound for hypocrisy. Rather, judge his character on how he handles the adversity of exposure, and whether his true colors ring truth or are covered in lies.