There’s really no sense in breaking out the pitchforks and torches anymore. Performance-enhancing drug use in the sports world isn’t going anywhere.
The argument is tired. To cut right down to the cloth, athletes use PEDs to get an advantage over the competition. It’s the bottom line of the issue, and we’ve grown desensitized to those athletes who try to skirt the issue by claiming ignorance.
It’s the easiest excuse in the world: “I didn’t know what I was taking.”
That may be, but as a professional—under the microscope and in the spotlight—it’s the job of each and every athlete to pay attention to what they are taking. There’s no good excuse for failing a drug test.
Orlando Magic forward Hedo Turkoglu is just the latest example of a professional athlete claiming ignorance to avoid the brunt of the blame. According to Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated, Turkoglu has been suspended by the NBA for 20 games for violating its substance abuse policy.
This is what Turkoglu had to say on the matter, as quoted by Golliver:
While I was back home in Turkey this past summer, I was given a medication by my trainer to help recover more quickly from a shoulder injury. I didn’t know that this was a banned substance and didn’t check before taking it. I take full responsibility for anything that goes into my body. This was a complete error in judgment on my part and I apologize to the Orlando Magic organization, the league, my teammates, and the Magic fans. I know I have let down a lot of people and I am truly sorry for my mistake.
While it’s commendable that Turkoglu admitted to his indiscretion without trying to avoid guilt or implicate others, it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt. Professional athletes have ruined that pleasantry.
A new story of PED abuse surfaces all too often in the sports world. From the epidemic of steroid use in Major League Baseball to Lance Armstrong’s recent admissions and the Sports Illustrated report on IGF-1 from late January that exposed the American public to the “deer-antler spray” phenomenon, it’s all too much.
In early February, PGA pro Vijay Singh admitted to using deer-antler spray. And yet, Singh denied knowing there was anything in the spray that was banned by the PGA. He had this to say, as quoted by John Nicholson of the Associated Press:
While I have used deer-antler spray, at no time was I aware that it may contain a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Policy. In fact, when I first received the product, I reviewed the list of ingredients and did not see any prohibited substances. I am absolutely shocked that deer-antler spray may contain a banned substance and am angry that I have put myself in this position. I have been in contact with the PGA Tour and am cooperating fully with their review of this matter. I will not be commenting further at this time.
What factor most detracts from the integrity of professional sports?
Sound familiar? We’re once again back to pleading ignorance. In Singh’s case, the facts speak for themselves. He admitted to using a banned substance, presumably to find an advantage over the competition. What other reason could there be for taking something specifically engineered to be a performance-enhancing substance?
It’s time for athletes to stop playing dumb. They are responsible for what they take, whether those athletes obtained the substance from a medical doctor, a drug store or a man in a trench coat in a dark alley. There’s no excuse for failing to uphold the integrity of their sport.
Integrity. That’s really what it all boils down to. More than anything else, professional sports continue to take center stage because they mean something, and they mean something because there is still some integrity left to hold up a structure that is crumbling from the top down.
Turkoglu’s hands may be cleaner than the athletes who knowingly took banned substances to get ahead, but he’s just as guilty—call it carelessness if it will make it seem less wrong. As long as there is a list of substances for professional athletes to avoid, there’s no excuse for using one of them, unknowingly or otherwise.