Sunday, July 1, 2012

Unnatural Selection - How Substances Ruin Sports as We Know It.

In the past month, two MLB players have been handed 50-game suspensions for testing positive for PED's, or performance enhancing drugs. Over the past few years, issues like this have been common not only in baseball, but in football, soccer, MMA (Remember Cyborg?), and even "professional wrestling."

There's so much caution today. This is such an awkward era. And it's for a stupid reason too.

Every single time you do something important you have to give a urine sample or a cotton swab of some fluid to make sure you're "clean." Why? Because you don't want to play unfairly, do you? Sometimes, making bad choices can not only ruin you as the athlete, but it can also give your sport a bad name. The problem can also be blown out into major obnoxious proportions.

Do you want an example? This one is super fun to talk about.

There's this goofball out there in the world of baseball named Jose Canseco. Most people in the global village know him as a pompous finger-pointer who calls people out on Twitter just to feel manly. (He even put his phone number on a tweet once looking for a fight. I'm not making this up. I laughed for an hour over it.) Back in 2005, Canseco released a book called Juiced: Wild Times, Rampant 'Roids, Smash Hits; How Baseball Got Big which wound up accusing numerous baseball players that he had crossed at one point in his career to have used illegal substances. Some of these guys included Mark McGwire, Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez, and Jason Giambi. After this book was released, the media began swimming in dirt and baseball around the world as we knew it started covering from heavy fire. There was a blacklisting almost as scary-looking as Senator McCarthy's Communist blacklisting in the 50's. Players who were prominent in the game were then placed under suspicion for usage. It was almost like prohibition all over again.

It was so bad, even the tabloids had fun with it.
The link RIGHT HERE is a personal favorite cover page (somewhat NSFW).

Oh no, it gets worse than that too. Canseco released another book in 2008 called Vindicated where he called out Alex Rodriguez on using steroids. After the accusation, more court cases went underway. Numerous guys were convicted of steroid use (hey Mark McGwire, how are you doing?) and some were even accused of perjury soon afterward (Roger Clemens, is that you?). It seemed like a well-cared-for sport was working underground operations for at least 15-20 years, according to Canseco. In retrospect, it's completely obvious that a lot of the players that were accused of drug use were juiced in their careers. When Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs in 1998, you knew it wasn't natural. When Barry Bonds hit 73 in 2001, you knew even more that something wasn't right with that. When Roger Maris hit 61 in '61 (ha ha ha) it just seemed more natural. I also think of how ridiculously bulky some of the guys were back in the day.

Look at the vein popping out of Lenny Dykstra's right forearm. That is all I have to say about that.

The problem I have with the publishing of Canseco's book is that out of nowhere, some washed-up dude who obviously had a problem just went and published all of this knowledge without warning. I would have totally understood if there were previous speculations on a couple of players, but instead it was just like:

"WHAMO, here are some names thrown out there because I'M JOSE CANSECO! BWAAAAAHHH!!!!"

Some of the suspension cases are extremely unfortunate. Many dieticians and physical therapists and doctors have been charged with giving athletes supplements that are traced with illegal substances. There are issues in which these people come under fire that include the doctor or whomever it is not telling the athlete of the instance that there may be something questionable in the medication that they have been prescribed or in dietary pills that have been recommended.
The most unfortunate of cases come from other....let's call them "practices." About a week ago, I looked up online that there can be cases in which substances can actually be transferred through...sexual intercourse. Yes, people, the birds and the bees can get men in trouble in more ways than one! If a woman is taking medication that contains some sort of steroid or additional hormone (i.e. birth control pills), it can be physically transferred and may actually be traced on a drug test. Trust me, I saw that and was shocked. Apparently it's rare, and the exposure has to be prolonged.

Okay, before I begin "the talk" from out of nowhere, let's move on from that.

There are different kinds of what people call "illegal substances" or "performance enhancers." One of the more common ones that is heard nowadays is HGH, or Human Growth Hormone. It pretty much speaks for itself. There are also different kinds of steroids that are meant to affect muscle build and bone structure. Also, there can be substances that increase the level of testosterone in the system, ultimately affecting strength and other features. Of course, there are side effects from these things, which include the body practically falling apart, and something called "roid rage" where the additional chemicals from the steroids whack out the brain. Bad things have happened from that--especially when head injuries may be involved with it.

One form of "enhancement" that has been a shaky subject as of late is eye surgery. The most well-known player to have gotten it is Brian McCann. A lot of critics claim that this is a physical form of performance enhancement as it clears the vision and adds more detail to an individual's vision. Guys, what is Lasik Eye Surgery then? I know people who have gotten it; their usage compared to steroid use is apples and oranges. If there is an issue with someone's eyesight and they're a professional athlete, I'm more than certain that eye surgery should be a healthy resort.

Babe Ruth did it on hot dogs and beer, for goodness sake. Why do we need man-mones to achieve greatness? [Religious rant alert] If God (or Allah if you're a Muslim) gave you this body, you should use it to your fullest extent. You shouldn't have to add additional stuff that shouldn't be there just to bump up your performance and getting a heftier paycheck. I know it forces the overall game and sport into fourth gear, but let's also think and consider this: What does it show the kids? What does it do to the prospective players that want to play? They shouldn't have to take performance-enhancing substances to be good or to keep up with the other guys. Stupid things like this kill the sport.

This is why we can't have nice things. People have to try and "cheat" for greatness, and for what? More media coverage in the form of a court case? Settlements that cost millions of dollars? It's not worth it. What has to be taught to the kids and the current high school/college athletes is that athletes are made through hard work and determination, not through a pill or a syringe. If the issue is to correct a problem such as eyesight or lack of cartilage, then I would think that's alright. If it's to build muscle or strengthen bones, it's called calcium and protein--simple as that.

Performance enhancement is a poison...It's always going to be around in a sneaky way and it's always going to hurt someone and something when least expected.



tikitakafan17 said...

Steroids have ruined the credibility of Major League Baseball completely. No star today can perform at high level without the questions of whether or not they used PEDs. How soon after Braun won the MVP award this past year did the report of substance abuse? For some, PEDs helped propel them from constant performer, to MVP type candidates. These are the athletes we get most upset and angry with, since their paychecks skyrocket millions and they've become the faces of the game.

But what about guys like Freddy Galvis? The potential career minor league-er (in AAA) who really make no more than an average recent college graduate (it's even lower for AA and A). Should these guys be thrown into the flames of the media for taking a chance from trying to get salaries increased from around 30,000 to the Major League minimum of 110,000. If you notice no-one is really talking much about Galvis' suspension. An he's going to fade back into obscurity this year with Utley playing again.

The Sports Nut Blogs said...

I'm actually quite glad you mentioned Utley in your comment. In my view, guys like him are the reason why baseball isn't completely dead. He could definitely take the PED route for his chronic knee problem but he won't because he's just that kind of player.

There are also guys out there like CJ Wilson and Josh Hamilton that are special in their own right because they have openly stated their drug-free lifestyle and have proven to be natural players out on the field.

It's pretty sad that one bad apple eventually spoils the whole bunch.