PEDs: They Shouldn’t Matter

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Person A and Person B have chosen two very different careers and have become incredibly famous and rich in the process. Neither is interested in giving up their craft and both have much to lose if someone younger comes along and supplants them.

Person A is a well known actor in his late 30’s who has just signed a deal to play the lead role in the next great Hollywood comic super hero series. There’s just one problem: filming begins in six months and Person A needs to pack on 40 pounds of muscle to look the part. Unfortunately, Person A has never been one to hit the gym and workout because it gets in the way of his off camera life.

No problem. Person A has a wonderful agent, one who is well connected. Person A is also supported by the studio which is about to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into him and together with the agent, they find a great personal trainer and even better performance enhancing drugs. Before you know it, Person A is ripped like Mr. Universe and everyone wants to know his secret.

Magazine articles run interviews with him as he talks about how he managed to clean up his diet, increase his protein, get plenty of sleep, and do two high volume and high intensity workouts a day and, well, there you have it, another Hollywood hunk.

Fortunately for Person A, Hollywood does not test for performance enhancing drugs and could care less how Person A built a new body in such short time because to them, all that matters is whether or not their next blockbuster sinks or swims to massive profits. No one who watches the film will question how he got his new body because all they have heard is how dedicated he was to his craft and focused on making a great film. Everyone loves Person A.

Then there is Person B who is also in his late 30’s but unlike Person A, he has spent almost all of his life working out and training tirelessly to be one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play professional football. Unfortunately, Person B is trying to overcome what most believe is a career ending injury and like Person A, he only has six months before he reports to his NFL team. Time is precious and after a decade and a half in the NFL, B’s body does not bounce back as fast has it did when he first entered the league.

Person B has a terrific agent and very supportive owner and coaches who want him back. You see, not only is he a proven talent at the most difficult job in all of professional sports, he also represents millions of dollars in ticket sales, jersey sales, commercial endorsements, and confidence among his teammates who know they can with him, but not without him.

Unfortunately for Person B, performance-enhancing drugs are not allowed in his line of entertainment. Getting caught would be devastating to his reputation even though he knows with the help of trainers, he can pass any NFL drug test. Person B gambles and arranges through a third party for HGH, Human Growth Hormone, to be packaged and mailed to his wife for him to use as part of his recovery and training process.

Unfortunately, when the news breaks linking Person B to the use of a banned substance, he is left to either lie and deny the story or explain why he is not a cheater and just mistakenly took a banned product. While he sits out a four, eight, or sixteen game suspension, Person B manages to attend the red carpet grand opening of Person A’s hit film and meets up with him after where they talk about how fortunate A is to be an actor while B has the misfortune of being a pro athlete despite the fact both entertain millions of people through their craft.

It’s time to end the nonsense that has claimed the reputations of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Lance Armstrong, Ben Johnson, and now, possibly Peyton Manning.

Why we make so much out of PED use by professional athletes astounds me. These are grown adults who perform a task that comes with horrific injuries and such great physical demands, it is impossible to recover fast enough to perform at a high level. These are not people who are drinking their way out of the league and ripping off their owners and the public.

“But it is cheating,” you say.

“Shut up,” I say. Unless your taxes are in perfect order, you have never had an affair, and you never asked someone to give you an answer on a college final, you have no business labeling these athletes cheaters. In most cases, these are people who are simply trying to recover from injuries so they can train at a high level and do what they love doing.

Some of us love money and decide to cheat Uncle Sam out of his cut. When we tell others what we did, all too often we are congratulated and feel justified because it was our government who paid the price instead of our favorite team who was beaten out of a playoff spot.

The last time I checked, smoking and drinking claims more lives than PED’s have ever claimed. Our impressionable high school athletes who we fear might use PEDs because of someone like Person B using them are most likely drinking or smoking it up after their Friday night games. The girls they knock up because they are worshiped by women for their talents have been told they have the right to do with their bodies as they please and are allowed to get an abortion.

It seems to me grown men, and women who play sports, should be the ones who decide what they do with their bodies and if they want to use PEDs despite their dangers, just like some might drink or smoke despite their dangers, then let them.

If they drop dead from a blood clot, contract HIV from a dirty syringe, or see their nuts shrivel up into raisins, that’s on them. Have we forgotten what awaits most of these athletes who chose their career path? Brain trauma, artificial knees and hips before the age of 40, addiction to pain killers first prescribed by their team doctors, and in most sports, a shorter life expectancy.

Athletes know what they are getting into when they turn pro. Teams do a great job of bringing former ball players around to mentor current players. They see their childhood idols relying on a cane to balance themselves, a wheel chair to get around, or a full time nurse to provide round the clock care all because they chose to play a game for a living and are now all of 45 years of age.

Antonio Gates sat out a 4-game suspension after testing positive for PEDs and losing his appeal. (Claudia Gestro)
Antonio Gates sat out a 4-game suspension after testing positive for PEDs and losing his appeal. (Claudia Gestro)

It’s time to end the suspensions for “cheaters.” It’s time to end the label of “cheater” for people who simply want to continue doing what they love with the blessing of their coaches, owners, and in more cases than we realize, their families.

If you are like me and you have grown tired of stories about performance enhancing drugs, then insist we allow their use under the supervision of a medical doctor. The “cheaters” are always going to remain ahead of the testers so it is pointless to test. Leagues and owners are always going to want to field the most talented teams money can buy. And fans are always going to want to see their favorite athletes perform without becoming disappointed when they find out guys like Person B “cheated.”

Today, it is Peyton Manning who is being questioned, a guy who by all accounts is an even better person than he is a quarterback. If he were a third string rookie quarterback, he would be tossed under the bus. However, too many very wealthy and powerful people have too much invested in him to allow him to be hung out to dry. Oh, wait, that’s what they said about Lance (Armstrong).

Just ask yourself if you were as sick as I was of Deflategate last off season, how soon before we become sick of PED-gate this coming off season? Again, we are talking about a performer who plays a game designed to take our minds off the fact our government allowed a bunch off Wall Street bankers to steal one third of the nation’s wealth, destroy our economy, and make us pay the bill without one of them going to jail.

Shouldn’t we be focusing more on who is better qualified to lead our country and which of these candidates may have cheated to get to where they are at in life today, than whether or not a 39-year old quarterback who loves a game so much he was willing to do anything to keep playing it?

Keep juicing and keep playing for as long as you can because from where I sit, I see much bigger things we should be concerned about but all too often do not want to consider let alone get worked up over.