Sports fans everywhere need to pay attention to this blog. We need to, as avid fans of competitive sports, stand up for the pass times we love and no longer be accepting of superstars who cheat. It is a disgusting time we live in where the people who are supposed to be role models for the nation's young people are using substances to gain a competitive edge in sports. We tell our children to work hard, play fair and follow the rules when athletes who make millions can't do the likewise.
The PED problem has been one that has infected the landscape of competitive sports since the 30's. I will give major examples of users and providers in the following paragraphs. Sports will never be completely credible ever again until the commissioners and players unions can come to agreement about how they will deal with the problem and punish the perpetrators. Whether it is a high profile baseball player or the young rising star in the world of inline skating, we must set a standard to renew the trust of sports fans everywhere.
Athletes have used substances to stay ahead of the game for years. Even in the 1930's athletes were using substances such as Benzedrine (trade name for amphetamine) which goes by the street name speed. The Council of Europe says it first appeared in sport at the Berlin Olympics in 1936.1 Everton has been one of the top teams in the English Association Football League. They were the champions of the 1962-1963 season. This achievement was made, according to a national newspaper investigation, with the help of Benzedrine.2
Anabolic steroid use in sports began in 1954. John Ziegler was a doctor who treated American athletes. He went to Vienna with the US weightlifting team. There he had met a Russian physicist who was giving his athletes testosterone. This was just one of the original perpetrators who can be blamed with the beginning of the AAS (anabolic steroids) problem in sports. These times ushered in a new era of cheating with the cutting edge new drug known as tetrahydrogestrinone (THG).
Tetrahydrogestrinone (THG), commonly by the BALCO marketing name "The Clear", is one of the more popular PED's in the market because at the time of its release it was undetected in urine samples. BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative) was founded in 1984 by Richard Conte as a service business for blood and urine analysis and food supplements. BALCO was one of the lead companies in providing a number of high-profile sports stars from the United States and Europe with the Clear and human growth hormone(HGH) for several years. BALCO was a major player in Olympic events and gave drugs to some of the participants in the games. BALCO was also involved with a lot of Major League Baseball players and helped some of them obtain the Clear and put them on regimens. It wasn't until 2003 that the United States Attorney for the North District of California began investigating BALCO. Since then there have been numerous court cases, plea hearings, and sentencing???s involving senior members of the company. On July 15 2005, Victor Conte (BALCO founder), and Greg Anderson (weight trainer) cut plea bargains, pled guilty to illegal steroid distribution and money laundering. Speculators say this was to avoid an embarrassing trial. Both men ended up serving time in prison.3
The most popular athletes whose names found in the records of BALCO customers are MLB players Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi and Brother Jeremy, Gary Sheffield, and Olympic track athletes Marion Jones and Tim Montgomery. The list goes on and the outcome was pretty disgusting. There has been very vague detail given by athletes about the use of the substances along with flat out denial. Bonds and Sheffield were given the Clear from BALCO says BALCO chemist Patrick Arnold, although both Bonds and Sheffield denied it.4
Sports are being tainted by stars I used to look up to growing up. I will never be able to look at my Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens baseball cards the same way ever again. And now with Alex Rodriguez coming out of the shadows and admitting his use of PED's during 2001-2003 when he was a member of the Texas Rangers it makes it clear that even guys you would never expect can't be trusted. I always thought A-Rod was one of the players that would never be in this discussion, but I was wrong. Now he dances around media questions about the use of the substances and cannot even call it flat out cheating. It takes an unparalleled amount of arrogance to say I don't even know if it worked or if I even used it right, because it certainly didn't hurt his performance where he had HOF like numbers in the Texas stint. When you use substances combined with A-Rod's awesome hand-eye coordination and mix it with God given talent, you then have on your a hands a beast with freak athletic ability. He said in front of media groups that he wasn't able to say if he cheated because it wasn't up to him to make that conclusion, but I will say it.
You, Alex Rodriguez are a cheater. Barry Bonds is a cheater, so is Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, Mark McGwire, Gary Sheffield, Rafael Palmeiro, and anyone else who uses these banned substances. You CHEATERS ruin the sports we all love by making it unfair for the guys who play clean and honestly. Guys like Ken Griffey Jr. who plays the game he loves and does it clean with only his skills and his passion and love for the game. It is a shame his career was plagued with injuries because he would have been a real homerun king.
Baseball isn't the only cheaters paradise. The NFL has its possible cheaters like Shawn Merriman, Bill Romanowski, Rodney Harison, Tyrone Wheatley, Barrett Robins, Chris Cooper, and Dana Stubblefield. Even the World welterweight champion Shane Mosley's name came upon the list of athletes who were at one point in time customers of BALCO. Whether these guys did PED's is speculative but you cannot deny that they had ties with the company of shadows. Former boxing champion Evander Holyfield received steroids and HGH under the alias Evan Fields, which is the name given in the law enforcement documents.5 His case is a complicated one which can be described in a blog of its own. Again, Evander Holyfield, a devout Christian athlete, is not even free from the snare of PED's. Boxer James Toney also tested positive for two steroids on May 24th of 2007. "He now faces suspension and fine" according to LA Times staff writer Lance Pugmire.6
We have record books full of numbers and statistical landmarks that were reached through the arrogance of cheaters. Homerun records by Barry Bonds will never be legit, but even worse is the fact that known cheater A-Rod is on the pace to destroy all the records Bond's wrongly set. A-Rod said he stopped using once he became a Yankee but I seriously doubt it, as do numerous fans of baseball. You never hear about steroids or PED's in basketball, but their testing procedures are not the same as in baseball or football. The NFL has the most credibility with a 4 game suspension without pay. Baseball testing is not as strict and is not as often.
My opinion is that cheating will keep happening as long as you do not raise standards and punish players according to the offenses. If a player does a substance once, he or she should be banned from their respected sport for half a season. A second offense should eliminate the player's eligibility for that entire season, and if it is late in that season, he or she should be banned through the next season up until the point in the year they were initially tested positive. And if a player is tested positive a third time, the player should then be banned from the sport forever. I think in special cases where an athlete is using a substance to battle an injury, he or she should be allowed to put in an appeal with a high ranking official of the league in the sport they participate in. Then the official can examine the situation and the circumstances and make the right decision based on the data that has been given him or her.
No more can we allow athletes to spit in the faces of fans and fellow athletes who play clean sports. I want my future children to be able to watch sports that are not tainted but are free of cheaters so they can look up to the athletes that way I used to. I want the credibility brought back into the sports leagues we all follow. If you are a fan like me, we need to take a stand for the pass times we love and not let these cheaters and frauds ruin our games.
Notes and sources:
- Doping of athletes, a European survey, Council of Europe, France, 1964
- Gabbert, Michael: How we uncovered the Everton drug scandal, The People, UK, 13 September 1964
- BALCO Founder Conte released from prison, Associated Press, 31 March 2006
- Chemist says Sheffield and Bonds used drugs, Michael Schmidt, New York Times, 25 July 2007
- Luis Fernando Llosa and L. Jon Wertheim Sports Illustrated http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/more/02/28/holyfield
- Lance Pugmire of LA Times June 12, 2007. Doghouse Boxing. http://www.doghouseboxing.com/dhb/dhb0613a07.htm