Roger Marolt: The reality of shattered dreams, shrunken testicles in sports
A 15-year-old figure skater tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, and she is allowed to continue competing in the Olympics. Many view this as an absurd step backward in the world of high level sports competition. I see it as a small stutter step in the right direction.
I think steroids and other PEDs should be legalized for professional athletes. It is not that I am an advocate for their use in sports. It is that I am for promoting honesty, an advocate for athlete safety and believe in the furtherance of science through real world, large-scale monitoring of these substances.
Recent studies, including one funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency, conclude that PED use by elite athletes is almost assuredly greater than 50%, even though just 1-2% will ever test positive for it. This means many young athletes are experimenting unsupervised in the dark with these powerful substances, drug testing is not an effective deterrent and that something has to change.
Yes, the rules regarding PED use in organized athletics have been re-written in stronger language with harsher penalties for those caught cheating. And, yes, there are “stringent” year-round testing programs, but …
… But, cheaters are perpetually ahead of testers. Testers can’t test for what they don’t know exists. Meanwhile, chemists aiding athletes know exactly what the testers are looking for and can easily avoid detection.
… But, random drug tests are as “random” as advertised so that athletes know when the tests are coming.
… But, nobody in major sports governing bodies is ignorant of the effects of positive drug tests. Failed drug tests lead to scandal, and scandal is terrible for the bottom line. Think professional cycling with Lance Armstrong. Think Major League Baseball and its lingering Steroid Era. Both industries were nearly destroyed by uncovering cheaters. Both thrived when juice was on the loose. Lesson learned: Cheating pays for one and all, so let’s just make it appear we are serious about PED testing.
I abhor cheating. I believe PED use is a dangerous experiment for young athletes. I don’t like the idea of artificially enhanced sporting feats. So why advocate for legalizing PEDs in professional sports? It’s simple: The truth will set us free.
There is truthful deception about athletic culture — it is healthy. It is pure. Competition builds character. Training develops discipline. The camaraderie of competing helps children acquire traits to navigate the grownup game of life. That’s the truth. But the package is wrapped in one gigantic pervasive lie about all of this being purest at the highest levels.
We have embraced the false idea that more is better with sports, and the lessons learned in athletic competition are more pronounced and stick more firmly the higher one ascends the hierarchy of achievement. Never mind that the wicked draw of fame and fortune almost always eventually uses emphasis of these positive attributes of sport as camouflage for self-serving greed and star status attainment, AT ALL COSTS. Then, we hide the costs. We dodge truth. We ignore reality.
We encourage our children to pursue high level athletic achievement without arming them with facts about what they are getting into. An honest discussion at least mentions that hard work, dedication and even natural ability might not be enough to realize the ultimate dream. Without this discussion early on, successful young athletes are oftentimes introduced to the prevalence of PED use only after they are so fully invested in their sport that it is much harder to say “no.”
The potential long-term effects of PED use are not clear. But what is undeniably bad for athletes is that we can’t protect them from PED abuse if we don’t acknowledge that it is prevalent and we have been able to stop it.
What is perhaps worse for athletes is that, currently, use of these substances is cheating. And, if you are cheating, you will eventually have to lie about cheating and, if you are really successful, perhaps for the rest of your life. Living that constant lie that an identity has formed around cannot be mentally healthy.
We have to do better by aspiring athletes. We have to confront the reality about PEDs. We have to make honest human beings out of sports idols, not by demanding they give up drug use, which they probably won’t at the pinnacle of their achievement of a lifelong dream, but by changing the rules to encourage them to tell us the truth.
Roger Marolt wonders why, if it is currently legal to get a prescription for testosterone to improve your sex life, then why can’t a figure skater also get it legally under a doctor’s supervision to perform her craft better. email@example.com
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For the past five-plus years I have sat in a big chair in a small office on Hyman Avenue watching life in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley play out in front of me.