Steroids: Is It Time To Legalize and Regulate Their Use?

Leroy Watson Jr.Senior Writer IMarch 8, 2009

Perhaps we have come to the point when using steroids to enhance athletic performance should be legalized and regulated.


I know that sounds as crazy as recommending a pardon for Richard Nixon. All I ask is that you follow my reasoning with an open mind.


First of all, it should be established that steroid abuse has been known to destroy lives.


When I was a kid, one of my favorite players was Lyle Alzado. Looking back, he was probably the first well-known steroid user to freely and openly admit that he had played juiced. Alzado was a remarkable physical specimen (6’3”, 260 pounds), and one hellacious football player. Steroids obviously played a part in both of those facts.


Unfortunately, human growth hormone harvested from cadavers killed him. He died of complications from a brain tumor at the ridiculously young age of 43. He had been a steroid abuser since the year I was born, 1969.


I will never forget Alzado's last interviews when he was a shell of himself.


However, we are now beginning to see another side of the steroid story.


After all, just about everyone alive has been given a steroid at some point. If you have ever suffered from any of a myriad maladies that cause hives, swelling, and other fluid retention issues, you were probably prescribed a steroid.


Steroids are used as part of a program to treat breast cancer in women.


Victims of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and assorted respiratory illnesses are given steroids to arrest bronchial inflammation. Decadron? That product is a corticosteroid. Deltasone? Prednisone? The last two drugs are the same product with different names. And they are prescription steroids.


My point is simple: Steroids are not inherently deadly. Just ask Alex Rodriguez. Sorry, I could not help myself.


Baseball and track, in particular, owe much to steroids.


Ironically, due to the abuse of steroids, interest in track had waned by the late 1990s. Enter so-called undetectable designer steroids.


Athletes with the reputation of performing clean such as Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery (among scores of others) began setting records, winning meets, and bringing back fans. Years later, it was revealed, much to their disgrace, that they had used performance enhancers.


Major League Baseball famously overcame labor unrest, player strikes, and general upheaval by putting a product on the field that scored runs in bunches. Field dimensions shrank, players bulked up, homers flew at historic levels, and everyone was happy.


It is quite hypocritical for the powers-that-be who administer the rules in track and Major League Baseball to now relentlessly decry steroid use in their sports. It is impossible to decipher who was clean, past or present.


How many stars were like A-Rod, experimenting with performance enhancing drugs for a period of time only to discontinue the regimen later?


Fans of all sports appreciate seeing the limits of human achievements challenged. Golf clubs are scientifically engineered to provide unprecedented control and power. New and improved tennis rackets guarantee that just about anyone can serve in excess of 100 miles per hour.


While there is a difference between improving a sport's equipment and tinkering with the human body, would steroids be such a terrible thing, if administered with safety in mind?


Purists will say that the records of yesterday will be meaningless. I say that is a huge load of horse chips.


Records are always being artificially manipulated. Who can forget the lively baseball from just a few years ago? Or the dead ball from decades ago? How about the raised pitching mounds of the mid-to-late 1960s?


Performance enhancers of all types are still rampant in modern sports. Only a fool would argue otherwise. Perhaps it is time, therefore, to legalize and regulate them, so that users will not be exposed to tainted products or improper dosages that could kill them.