BY SCOTT DIETRICH
Last week Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal became the latest athlete to admit that he has taken performance enhancing drugs, opening up the steroid debate once again.
It seems more journalists today are taking the side that steroids should be legal in amateur and professional sports. Public opinion is swaying too as more and more sports fans I meet seem to say, “I drink coffee in the morning to wake up, isn’t that a performance enhancing drug?” Such an argument might hold some weight, if you injected the coffee into your bloodstream through a hypodermic needle.
It may also be a fair comparison if drinking coffee carried a risk of side effects with it, such as a compromised liver, shrinking testicles and also, in the case of men who abuse steroids, growing breasts. The list of adverse side-effects that are caused by steroid abuse continues to grow.
Call me old-fashioned but part of the reason I enjoy pro sports and the Olympics, is I get to watch a superhuman man or woman perform athletic feats that only a handful of humans can do.
What steroid abuse does is take that thrill away, and reduce amateur and pro sports to a cheap trick. If athletes take steroids their performance is no longer amazing, as no one can be sure how much of it was the athletes themselves and how much was the extra testosterone in their bloodstream.
In a column for Forbes.com last year, columnist Chris Smith wrote why he thought steroids should be legal. One of his main points in the column is that cheaters are getting harder and harder to catch and they will never stop cheating so why bother trying to stop them. No doubt Smith also avoids mopping his front hall in his home, so he won’t waste his time cleaning up something that will just get dirty again.
He also makes the point, (this one is my personal favourite), that when athletes take steroids it makes their performance better, and therefore, more entertaining for the fans. The minute fans say that they do not care what happens to an athletes’ long term health as long as they are entertaining is a small step away from the ancient Romans, who had no regard for life in their gladiator games.
The simple fact is that almost every study done on the adverse effects of steroids has come to similar conclusions. Failing livers, shrinking testicles, and in some cases, heart attack or stroke. To ask our athletes to take such risks for our entertainment is the last thing that sport needs right now, especially with all the research coming out on the long term effects of concussions. Governing bodies must continue to try and catch the cheaters and help those athletes who strayed so far from the very essence of sport, that being fair competition and natural athletic ability.