A Clean Conscience Over Artificial Success?: The Steroid Sublimination.
With Mark McGwire’s recent tearful admission of steroid use throughout his baseball career after plenty of speculation, we’ve all gone and (rightfully so) pointed our fingers, called McGwire and other players who have admitted (or that we speculate) taking performance enhancing drugs, as cheaters; tarnishing world class baseball, and to an extent, world class athletics and their athletes in the process.
Now lets get one thing straight before we go any further; these guys are cheaters. But that’s not the major point I’d like to discuss.
Before we factor in the advantage of performance enhancing drugs, can we at least admit that these athletes are simply talented individuals, gifted in their field? McGwire made some good, or at least arguable, points throughout his admission interview. When Bob Costas asked him if he believes he could have hit the record breaking 70 homeruns, or his 600 career homeruns, without the assistance of drugs, McGwire replied,
“Absolutely. I was given this gift by the man upstairs; to hit home runs. I started studied pitchers. I started understanding how they try to get you out. During that, my swing was changing. I started off as a raw kid, who had the ability to hit from the back leg and hit wall-scrapping home runs. Over the years, as you saw, my swing became shorter and shorter, and I learned how to hit through the baseball… The only reason I took steroids was for my health purposes. I did not take steroids to get any gain for any strength purposes… I’ve always had bat speed. I just learned how to shorten my bat speed. I learned how to be a better hitter. There is not a pill or an injection that is going to give me the hand-eye – or give any athlete – the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball. A pill or an injection will not hit a baseball… As I look back now I can see why people would say [that I cheated]. As far as the God-given talent and hand-eye coordination and the genetics I was given, I don’t see it [as cheating]… I look at my swing and look at how it evolved over time. That’s from a lot of hard work. That’s from many, many hours of hitting off the tee. I was the first one to the ballpark and the last one to leave… I just believed in my ability and my hand-eye coordination. And I believed in the strength of my mind. My mind was so strong, and I developed that on my own. No pill or no injection is going to do that.”
Former McGwire teammate, Jose Canseco, recently spoke via Twitter on the admission interview. Though he claimed McGwire hadn’t been entirely truthful about what he said, he did make some agreeable sentiments, saying,
“Bat speed, timing, hand eye coordination, balance…. you either have it or you don’t. Talent and hard work are key components to success as a professional athlete. Steroids do help, but you have to have the foundation.”
A 2008 documentary entitled “Bigger, Stronger, Faster*” made some interesting points that many people may not know; such as Tiger Woods’ laser eye correction to 20/15 vision, which gives him an very unfair advantage over his competitors. Of course, he’s really good at golf for a lot of good reasons, but this seems like an unnecessary loophole, doesn’t it? Does he need to be talented, and have the ability to see the cup from the tee box 500 yards away?
I really believe that the best players in sports are simply better than the rest of the people on the planet at what they do. On a level playing field, not a lot of people would be anywhere close to as good at baseball as McGwire, or as Woods in golf, or any other celebrated athlete. Those guys are just better than you. The players I feel bad for are the ones with that raw talent who stayed clean through their careers but were only potential major league fringe players at best, but get beat out by another player of the same talent level that didn’t stay clean, and had to watch a cheater fulfill his dream instead of him. At least those guys will have marbles for nuts in the end.
But beyond pro sports, some people use drugs called Beta Blockers, like Propranolol, to avoid stage fright, tremor, performance anxiety, panic, pounding heart, cold/clammy hands, increased respiration, sweating, and other conditions that could cause less than optimal performance.
Many professional musicians use these anxiety reducing drugs to calm nerves and increase focus prior to performances. So next time you’re auditioning for a spot in a band, and that guy who was no good last month suddenly gets awesome at his instrument and beats you out for a spot and becomes a big rock star while you stay home playing Guitar Hero, maybe there’s more to it?
Even students use them to improve test, homework, and school scores. Wouldn’t you hate to think that someone got the last spot into a prestigious school, or won some sort of competition over you because they were on something, and you weren’t?
Some doctors and surgeons use the same stuff before performing procedures. Wouldn’t you want your doctor at the top of his or her game before opening you up and playing with your life?
So the question is, are these people cheating too? If we shine the spotlight so prominently on baseball players, pro wrestlers, bodybuilders, and other professional athletes; should we not hold people competing in entirely different fields of play accountable as well? Where should the line be drawn? Why can Arnold Schwarzenegger do steroids, gain fame, become a movie star, and eventually a governor; why can Sylvester Stallone beef up with HGH for the latest Rocky installment, be a hero and make a ton of money; why can countless other people in other professions put these same substances in themselves without a word of objection from anywhere, but as soon as Bonds or Sosa hit an absurd amount of homeruns, all of a sudden their reputation is tarnished forever and everything they do gets an * beside it? Both sides are putting on a show to “set an example for the kids”, but isn’t it interesting which people become the bad guys and which carry on as they were when the truth comes out?