02-13-2004, 12:29 PM #1
Washington Post article on AS . . . fyi . . .
Steroids , steroids, steroids, blah, blah, blah ... is anyone taking any notice?
February 14, 2004
The drug indictments of four men in the US could open a can of worms in sports doping but, unless athletes are charged, the same old problems will remain. Sally Jenkins reports.
The word "steroid " in a headline has roughly the same effect these days as "deficit", "envoy" or "tariff": it's awash in so much ineffectual talk and political grandstanding that it's hard to feel about it what you should.
Who isn't weary of the sonorous, endless parade of drug czars and sports policemen and their obscure game of scientific "Gotcha"? Not one of them has made clear the difference between a supplement, a steroid and a jar of coffee. Instead, they've numbed us with lame pronouncements and cliches that devalue the issue when we should feel outrage. Now we have US Attorney-General John Ashcroft announcing a 42-count indictment of four people (none of whom is an athlete) for selling performance enhancers to athletes.
"Steroids are bad for sports," Ashcroft intoned. Why? I ask that in all seriousness. The question should be answered in a straightforward manner. It's not nearly as easy as it sounds. It leads to a hundred hard questions, such as: is doping a cheating issue or a health issue? What exactly are we trying to police? As a society, we're alternately conflicted and apathetic about the issue and we've suffered a chronic vagueness of purpose as a result.
"There is a certain amount of apathy," observed Donald Catlin, the director of the Olympic labs. "But there is a fair amount of activity, too. If the American public would stop buying tickets because they thought everyone was doped, the problem would get fixed real fast . . . I wish people had more of a sense of outrage and cheating."
Catlin is the lab hero who cracked the code on tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), the steroid that led to Thursday's indictments of Victor Conte, owner of the California-based BALCO Laboratories, his vice-president Jim Valente, track coach Remi Korchemny and Greg Anderson, a personal trainer to US baseball star Barry Bonds.
Thursday's indictments were both "terribly exciting" and "bittersweet" for Catlin. "Bittersweet because we have to deal with the mess," he said. And bittersweet because while BALCO is a victory, it's also a reminder of two decades of frustrations, of official lip service over doping, accompanied by fly-swatter actions and little actual support from leagues, governing bodies or governments. If performance enhancement is a cheating issue - and it is - then let's say it straight out.
If it's a cheating issue, then someone other than lab boffins and personal trainers ought to be arrested. No athletes have been charged yet - why?
Where are the indictments of the people who shook those substances out of the jar and swallowed them? I don't know the answer, but I have a theory: arresting beloved athletes may cause fans to become angry at policy-makers.
If doping is a public health issue, let's say so and let's say why. Let's say, "Steroids, EPO and Human Growth Hormone can shorten your life and kill you". And let's also say a 1996 US law that allowed some steroids to be sold over the counter as legal "supplements" was a huge mistake and should be repealed, because it has resulted in scores of teenage boys juicing themselves.
Let's define exactly what performance enhancers are: non-sporting ways to gain an advantage that are unhealthy when abused, and which make it difficult for other competitors not to use them, too, in order to keep up. They are an insidious and seductive chain reaction of evil, because anyone who aspires to be great believes they have to use a substance in order to become so.
Let's define the extent of drug use in sport and decide what we're going to do about it. Let's say straight out that doping is utterly pervasive. And let's take a hard look at how to deal with that.
Is the genie out of the bottle, with no way to put it back in? Should we legalise drugs in the hope of levelling the field and controlling their effects? Or should we try, with a co-ordinated and consistent effort, to eradicate them?
"OK, if you legalise drugs what will happen?" Catlin asks. "First of all, everyone will be on the drugs and the records will all be longer, or shorter. And then everyone will be equal again, except they're all on drugs, and those on the best and most potent drugs will win. So they will push the doses. And toxicity will go up."
This is the sort of discussion we need more of, as opposed to the same old "steroids are bad for sports" intonations. Watching the BALCO announcement, I had the sensation I'd heard the same words countless times before.
After 20 years of chasing cheats, Catlin hopes this time will be different.
BALCO has the potential to be huge. But if all it does is conveniently vilify a handful of athletes, we'll be stuck with the same old problem.
The Washington Post
02-13-2004, 12:57 PM #2AR-Hall of Famer / Retired
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I agree with the cheating issue, if they wanted to go that way - but the reason they dont go on the health issues is because they cant prove that it is detrimental to your health if done properly - and if you arent a teenager - and the congressmen who are doing HRT wont let that fly
02-13-2004, 01:59 PM #3
It could be argued that records ste using the best pharmacological technology cannot be compared to older records made before these advances. In that case should all athletes return to the training methods, diet and equipment of 50 years ago for a true level playing field? The point is to push the human body to it's limits.
02-13-2004, 03:15 PM #4
yeah lets not forget that there is a difference between what the NFL, NBA, USOC, etc set for their athletes and legality. As far as Im concerned if every professional and amateur society wants to ban and test for performance enhancers, thats their business (and good policy as well), but where I draw the line is where the government steps in and enforces these rules for non-athletes as well. I figure its not up to the government to protect me from myself! As long as I pay the consequences, then so be it, let me take, smoke, drink, or shoot-up what I want.
I guess its my anti-republicrat libertarian leanings coming out!
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