Getting a leg up on the competition has been around a long time in sports. As far back as the original Olympic Games (from 776-393 BC) and Roman Gladiators (100 AD) athletes have used a variety of performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) to compete at a higher level then their counterparts. In the late 1980′s the Oakland Raiders of the NFL even had a poster on the wall of the team’s practice facility that read, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.” If you want proof of just how bad it has been here is a list of athletes who have been caught using PED’s.
The other day the headline of Yahoo sports read “Rodriguez banned through 2014, 12 others get 50-game suspensions in MLB drug cases”. Within the article it stated:
The suspensions are thought to be the most at once for off-field conduct since 1921, when Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis banned eight White Sox players for life for throwing the 1919 World Series against Cincinnati: Shoeless Joe Jackson, Eddie Cicotte, Happy Felsch, Chick Gandil, Fred McMullin, Charles “Swede” Risberg, Buck Weaver and Claude “Lefty” Williams.
While the suspensions are a good start to solve the rampant use of PED’s in MLB, it hasn’t fixed the underlying problem. The problem is that it pays to be a cheater. Just look at the salaries of some of the suspended MLB players in 2013:
- A-Rod = 28 million
- Nelson Cruz = 10.5 million
- Ryan Braun = 9.89 million
- Jhonny Peralta = 5.5 million
- Everth Cabrera = 1.25 million
Over the lifetime of a players contract here are some of the highest paid athletes who have used PED’s:
- Alex Rodriguez (MLB) = $353,416,252
- Lance Armstrong (Cycling) = $218,000,000+
- Barry Bonds (MLB) = $188,245,322
- Roger Clemens (MLB) = $150,601,000
- Andy Pettitte (MLB) = $139,832,416
- Rafael Palmeiro (MLB) $89,295,996
- Jose Theodore (NHL) = $42,219,968
- Sean Hill (NHL) = $15,544,433
- Bryan Berard (NHL) = $14,635,000
NOTE: Both Jose Theodore and Bryan Berard failed out-of-competition tests administered by their respective national anti-doping organizations in November 2005, but neither was suspended by the league because the failed tests happened before the NHL established its new policy.
Now as this is a hockey blog and you think that in the National Hockey League the use of PED’s is not a problem, try again. In 2005 the former chairman of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) made the statement “the NHL’s policy is very seriously flawed” and he estimated that one-third of NHL players were likely taking performance enhancing substances.
Former NHL tough guy Georges Laraque was quoted by TSN saying “he knew a lot of players, including some of the league’s top performers, who used steroids while he was in the league.”
So after all of this, what’s the solution? As a coach seeing any athlete using or suspended for performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) is a real concern. Personally I’d like to see a lifetime ban to anyone caught using performance enhancing drugs, and make them payback the salary they earned during the years they cheated.
The only problem with this is the fans want the 500-foot home runs and 70-yard touchdowns…we’re ultimately to blame. If we didn’t want that and voted with our wallets then sports would change immediately. Until then, look to pro sports as pro wrestling with the “appearance” of being legit.
Sometimes I think it might be easier to just accept that some athletes will always try to find a way to cheat the system, so why not legalize everything? When this thought passes my mind I wonder what message is that sending to our kids? Do you want your son or daughter using PED’s when they are 13 to get a leg up on the competition? Have we really come that far that we’ll stoop to that level just to play a sport? What guarantee is there that 15,000 other kids aren’t using PED’s as well…I think once you go down that road it only leads to more trouble.