Who are we to judge steriod use in sports?

Neil Vishnu Williams, ArtSci '09
Neil Vishnu Williams, ArtSci '09

I have no problem watching a 300-pound linebacker run down a quarterback on a bootleg play to make a huge hit, seeing Asafa Powell breaking the 100m dash record, or watching Barry Bond’s swing lifting a baseball over 500 feet. But I do have concerns with these accomplishments being fraudulently achieved through the use of steroids and countless other performance-enhancing drugs.

Hard work and dedication are essential to any successful athletic career, but unfortunately, cheating through drug use is common. Sport is ultimately a contest between athletes who push the natural ability of the human body to its best, not about the ability of athletes to inject themselves, to push themselves harder because a drug is allowing their bodies to transcend its natural limits. An athlete should employ his or her natural talents and abilities to the fullest extent—training and skill development should be the only performance-enhancing tools. Substances that alter the structure, strength and ability of an athlete simply do not belong in sport because they are not a part of the body’s natural form and they can alter a person’s natural potential in sport.

As a fan, I am fully against the use of steroids and its sister drugs, but as an athlete, I recognize there are grey areas to consider. The use of pharmaceuticals that contain potentially performance-enhancing substances should be permitted so long as they are in the best interests of the athlete. While the revolutionary drugs that are available have the potential to be dangerous to the future of sport, when used responsibly they are a godsend for athletes who could otherwise be facing the end of their careers. Performance-enhancing drugs certainly can be detrimental to the human body—they can be lethal—but there are instances where this risky activity is seen as a last resort or a life-saver for some athletes.

Obviously, popular opinion is that performance-enhancing drugs in sport are wrong in every sense, because society knows it is morally correct to “just say no.” But when your livelihood and personal pride depend on your every performance, your view becomes slightly skewed and desperate measures become plausible.

The physical stresses of training and competition, combined with the emotional stresses of living under a microscope and the slew of other responsibilities and duties that come with the job, can take a toll on an athlete, and sometimes athletes look for help in the wrong places—including taking performance-enhancers.

We must remember that professional athletes have shed blood and sweat for years to get where they are, to fulfill their dreams. Who are we, as a society, to tell them what they can do to their bodies in order to better their performance? Who are we to stand in the way of these athletes achieving their dreams? What a player does to advance to a higher performance level is not the public or media’s business—it is not anyone’s body on the line, except for that of the athlete. The public doesn’t care at all until it hits the news, becoming a steriod scandal about someone who miraculously begins hitting a baseball 500 feet every day.

That being said, there are serious consequences of steriod use. As an athlete myself, I think if a player decides to use drugs, then he or she should be ready to face those consequences. Athletes who use performance enhancers should be ready to accept the punishment that is due if or when they are caught by governing officials. They should also be prepared to deal with the medical problems that result from steriod and other perfromance-enhancing drug use.

But it’s about time we take off the blinders and realize that athletes are human. They have flaws, and insecurities like the rest of us. They have hopes and dreams, and they’re willing to do whatever it takes to spend their lives doing something they love. The general public needs to realize that until they walk in an athlete’s shoes—pouring their souls into sport while enduring scrutiny over steriod use—they can never righteously cast judgement upon them.

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