PEDS………Friend or Foe?

PEDS……performance enhancing drugs

The most hated four- letter word in sports.

Most of the recent attention on these substances has been focused on baseball, or to cycling to a lesser extent. But is this attention and concern valid?  I would argue it is not.

I will concentrate my argument on baseball where the national pastime has been considered under attack  from the use of PEDS by the likes of Sosa, McGwire, Bonds, Clemens, (And cycling is a major sport only among those socialism-loving Europeans, especially the morally depraved French.)

Oh, and PEDS is a generic term not necessarily excluding other methods designed to aid an athlete’s performance.

To say PEDS are not welcome in baseball is to ignore the long time use of cortisone, pain killers, amphetamines or medical innovations such as arthroscopic surgery, Tommy John procedures and the like. All of these enhance or even purely enable performance. And any player with cancer, for instance, who has returned after chemo or radiation treatments, performs only due to enhancement from these drugs. (a la Lance Armstrong)It would be better to permit all use than to hypocritically rail against only a segment of enhancement one finds distasteful
I don’t care if Bonds or anyone was souped up on steroids or anything else. They still had to hit the ball in the first place for it to ever have a chance to be a home run. After all, the popular notion is that hitting a pitched ball is the most difficult feat in sports.

 Several times I have challenged anyone to cite just one of his home runs, or that of any player, which would not have been struck save for PEDS.

A few years ago the Pittsburgh Post Gazette ran a series of stories tracing the first use of steroids by weightlifters in York, Pa. in the 1950’s. They originally used straight testosterone, but with obvious detriment to their genitals.

Along came a Maryland doctor, John Ziegler, who began steroid experiments on these weightlifters and on himself. Convincedthat testosterone worked to ncrease bulk and strength but seeing the need to reduce the deleterious side effects, he eventually synthesized a steroid and produced it as Dianabol.

Jars of the stuff were provided the York he-men and they quickly became the leaders among U.S. weightlifters. Not leaving well enough alone, they naturally increased doses high above recommended levels. Dr. Ziegler had monitored and charted this use and stayed close to the club. When they went beyond what he thought safe, he became disillusioned and gradually severed ties.

This tale is chronicled in more detail in the link below.

As the PG articles noted, Dr. Ziegler was concerned with any possible side effects as well as the total effectiveness of steroids. If his “lab rats” had not so readily been willing to step outside the bounds, causing his resignation from this experiment, perhaps the administration would not have fallen to charlatans, creeps and unethical doctors.

At least there would have been one valid study tracking steroid use. Whether that would have led to further legitimate developments in that area is only speculative.

I present this moral lesson only to illustrate that labelling steroids as “evil” only serves to render them to the back alleys of medical applications. Those treatments developed through accepted channels have gained acceptance and are commonly available with no opprobrium.

Qualitatively I maintain there is no practical difference and the artificial distinctions imposed are, in a word, HOOEY. (Sorry to be so technical)

So now baseball players, coming late to the training and weight rooms of athletics, thrilled with their new-found strength, seek to enhance it further. Amphetemines were at one time the abused substance of choice. Players ranging from Willie Stargell to Willie Mays to the odious Pete Rose have been alleged to have ‘greenied up”, quaffed the “red juice” or otherwise ingested some form of speed to help get them througha 162 game season.

Likewise in the past twenty years, newer stars and scrubs alike have discovered not only the strength building characteristics of steroids, but that they, in some cases, can promote healing, alleviate muscle fatigue or in other manners enable the big leaguers to survive the season.

I propose that instead of condemning these athletes, especially by the whiskey swilling, cigarette smoking, coterie of sports writers who undoubtedly have no hesitation to pop pills, gulp down Red Bull or use other methods to be able to meet the increasingly short deadlines demanded due to the internet and ESPN, methods of monitoring athletes’ use of any substances be developed. This will keep such use safe and at least the athletes will be advised of side effects and to be able to cope with them when they appear.

But the bigger picture is that everyone from players, baseball officials, sports journalists, Congress and fans should acknowledge the reality that PEDS of some nature have always been with us. Then I hope they will cease the sermonizing and self-serving commentary.

Ultimately the fans can then concern themselves simply with wins and losses.

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