Roger Marolt: The reality of shattered dreams, shrunken testicles in sport
A 15-year-old figure skater tests positive for performance-enhancing drugs and is cleared to continue competing in the Olympics. Many see it as an absurd step backwards in the world of high-level sports competition. I see it as a small step in the right direction.
I think steroids and other PEDs should be legalized for professional athletes. It’s not that I’m in favor of their use in sports. It’s that I am a proponent of honesty, an advocate for athlete safety, and believe in advancing science through wide-scale, real-world monitoring of these substances.
Recent studies, including one funded by the World Anti-Doping Agency, conclude that use of PED by elite athletes is almost certainly over 50%, although only 1-2% will test positive. This means that many young athletes are experimenting unsupervised in the dark with these powerful substances, that drug testing is not an effective deterrent, and that something has to change.
Yes, the rules regarding the use of PED in organized athletics have been rewritten in stronger language with stiffer penalties for those caught cheating. And, yes, there are “rigorous” testing programs throughout the year, but…
… But, cheaters are perpetually ahead of testers. Testers can’t test what they don’t know exists. Meanwhile, chemists helping athletes know exactly what testers are looking for and can easily avoid detection.
…But, random doping tests are as “random” as advertised so athletes know when the tests are coming.
… But no one in the major sports governing bodies is unaware of the effects of positive doping tests. Failed drug tests lead to scandal, and scandal is terrible for the bottom line. Think professional cycling with Lance Armstrong. Think Major League Baseball and its lingering steroid era. Both industries were nearly destroyed by uncovering cheaters. Both thrived when the juice was on the loose. Lesson learned: Cheating pays for everyone, so just pretend we’re serious about PED testing.
I hate cheating. I believe that using PED is a dangerous experience for young athletes. I don’t like the idea of artificially enhanced sporting achievements. So why advocate for the legalization of PEDs in professional sport? It’s simple: the truth will set us free.
There’s a truthful deception about sports culture – it’s healthy. It’s pure. Competition builds character. Training develops discipline. The camaraderie of competition helps children learn traits to navigate the adult game of life. It’s the truth. But the package is wrapped in a gigantic, pervasive lie that it’s all the purest at the highest level.
We’ve embraced the misconception that more is better with sport, and the lessons learned in athletic competition are more pronounced and stick more firmly the higher you move up the hierarchy of success. Never mind that the bad draw of fame and fortune almost always ends up emphasizing these positive attributes of the sport as camouflage for self-serving greed and achieving star status, AT ANY COST. Then we hide the costs. We dodge the truth. We ignore reality.
We encourage our kids to pursue high-level athletic achievement without arming them with facts about what they’re getting into. An honest discussion at least mentions that hard work, dedication, and even natural ability might not be enough to achieve the ultimate dream. Without this discussion early on, successful young athletes are often only introduced to the prevalence of PED use after they have become so invested in their sport that it is much harder to say “no”.
The potential long-term effects of using DEP are unclear. But what’s undeniably bad for athletes is that we can’t protect them from PED abuse if we don’t recognize that it’s prevalent and we’ve been able to stop it.
What is perhaps worse for athletes is that currently using these substances is cheating. And, if you cheat, you will eventually have to lie, and if you really succeed, maybe for the rest of your life. Living this constant lie around which an identity has formed cannot be mentally healthy.
We have to do better in sucking up the athletes. We have to face the reality of developing countries. We need to make sports idols honest human beings, not by demanding that they give up drug use, which they probably won’t do at the pinnacle of achieving a lifelong dream, but by changing the rules to encourage them to tell us the truth.
Roger Marolt wonders why, if it’s currently legal to get a testosterone prescription to improve your sex life, then why can’t a figure skater also get it legally under the supervision of a doctor to perform better? his job. [email protected]