Monday, June 25, 2012

Rant: Steroid use among athletes

Justin Gatlin has won the U.S. Olympic trials in the 100 meters with a time of 9.80.  That's just 0.03 shy of his personal record set 6 years earlier and just after he tested positive for steroids. Unless it was a false positive test, I find it very hard to believe that he's clean now.  I'll be rooting for Tyson Gay in London.  Gatlin claims that his positive test came as a result of a vindictive massage therapist who supposedly rubbed cream laced with steroids on his leg.  If anyone buys that one, I've got some oceanfront property in the middle of North Dakota that I'll sell you real cheap.  The denials are all too common.  Since the infamous Ben Johnson scandal in 1988, scores of athletes have tested positive for steroids.  Almost all of them initially deny it though some eventually fess up.  Take a look at some of these explanations that I found online:
Just for once, I'd like to hear the truth: "I wanted to win a gold medal at the international level and trained hard for it but simply lacked the talent so I cheated.  I've disgraced the sport as well as my country and denied clean athletes a spot on the team.  All I can  do is say that I am sorry and ask for forgiveness."
Actually, I would grow to respect a person who owned up their poor decisions.
Let's go back to 1988 and the Ben Johnson scandal.  Johnson blew away the field with a 9.79 just before getting busted 3 days later.  He never broke 10.20 running clean.  That's why I'm so suspicious of Gatlin.  After initially denying that he "knowingly" took steroids, Johnson claimed that he only took them to gain an equal footing because "most world class athletes were taking drugs."  His claim does bear some weight given that 5 out of the 8 finalists did in fact test positive for something illegal at some point later in their careers.  I still don't buy Johnson's excuse.  For example, Carl Lewis took an herbal remedy that contained banned stimulants found in cold medicine.  Johnson took a steroid designed to boost an animal before slaughter and at mega doses.  Not even in the same league!  The testing is so advanced that it can be determined if it was taken once by accident or not.  Also, I do not believe that "most" world class athletes are on drugs.  Rather, it is the exception rather than the rule. Sadly, I would not be surprised if Usain Bolt is dirty but I also strongly believe innocence until guilt is proven.  Bolt has never failed a drug test and until he does, I must believe that he is indeed clean.  EDIT: I believed in Lance Armstrong's innocence until the USADA report came out. Call me naive but I must believe that there is truly a 1 in a billion talent that comes along once a generation that can dominate their event without steroids.

Marion Jones said that she could have won all those medals clean and Mark McGwire said that he could have hit 70 home runs clean.  That's garbage!  If you could win running clean, why didn't you do so?  Of course, I've never tried steroids and I'm only basing this assessment on observations.  Using Ben Johnson as an example, I figure that steroids are worth maybe a 3-5% improvement in your times depending on your drug of choice and your dosage. That said, it won't turn an average Joe into a world beater.  When I was in high school, my best event was the 800 where I was consistently 2:11-2:15.  If I was juiced, I could have run maybe 2:05.  I'd win most duel meets instead of finishing 3rd or 4th but would not do anything in a major invitational.  The point of that comment?  A clean 1 in a billion talent can still crush a WR of a doper.  Baseball players say it can make the difference between a home run and a warning track flyout. It won't turn an infield pop up into a homer.  Issajenko, who trained with Ben Johnson and admitted steroid use, said that you "march through the workouts without fear.  Anything they throw at you, you can do."  While others may need an occasional rest or recovery day, a steroid user can go hard almost every day.  A 3-5% improvement can mean the difference between #1 in the world and the fringe of world class so I really can understand the temptation.  Still, the bottom line is that it is cheating pure and simple and what angers me the most is that clean athletes are missing out on Olympic teams and medals because they took the high road.
   One poster online said that he doesn't care if all athletes are doped, he just wants to see insane WR times.  Are you kidding me?  If all steroids were legalized with no testing, yes we'd see superhuman times but if you want to win, you'd better take mega doses and expect that you'll be dead at 45.  You trade nearly half your lifetime for maybe 8 years of glory.  Pretty sad. 

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