crashing into walls without seat-belts

It is easy to understand some athletes decision to increase one’s ability in the weight room with illegal steroids. Ronnie Lott once cut off the tip of his finger in order to finish one game. Do you really think that sort of mentality is concerned with what steroids might have in store twenty years from now?”

 

matt waterman on steroid hysteria

 

Let me get something straight right off the bat: If you are next to me in the gym I will not give you advice. Your form could be horrible and I could see the exact problem in a your routine but, unsolicited, I would never point it out. Put simply, I would never want to be one of “those guys.” You know the type: The muscleman that no one can quite how he got that big since he spends so much time talking. But, that said, it’s too bad there isn’t more information shared about how muscles work. At least then there might be more realistic expectations of muscles and the athletes who use them.

Take the recent brew-ha-ha in baseball regarding steroids. Seemingly, the public’s perception is that if one were to do steroids they would instantly become an All-Pro baseball player. Well, the last I knew, steroids did nothing to aid vision and could, in fact, alter one’s judgment in a negative way. Also, it’s not as if taking a pill allows one to sit back on the couch and just start growing muscle—one still has to work out and train hard just as they normally would in order for the muscle to grow.

Clearly, steroids are a cheat. And clearly they should be outlawed in sports. But let’s be real here folks. As with so many other issues, Joe Public’s attitude is that very dangerous cocktail of judgmentalism, ignorance, and hypocrisy. On the one hand, steroids are perceived as a catchall to turn a man into superman when, actually, they are just another aid, albeit a dangerous one. On the other hand, the public “worries” about the long term effects of these drugs and the example that is being set…while asking these athletes to collide with each other in what amounts to consecutive car wrecks or to hurl balls with speed the human body never intended. It’s hard to worry that somewhere, sometime in the future, one MIGHT have health complications when, at that same moment, that person is actively tackling people with a torn bicep or a dislocated shoulder.

To be sure, the genie of steroids is a dangerous proposition. The list of adverse side-effects range from heart disease to liver failure to impotence—and that is just the tip of the iceberg. But compared to the money at stake and the violence of the game that is guaranteed to happen, it is easy to understand some athletes decision to increase one’s ability in the weight room with illegal steroids. Ronnie Lott once cut off the tip of his finger in order to finish one game. Do you really think that sort of mentality is concerned with what steroids might have in store twenty years from now?

So is the answer banning steroids? Well, in the abstract, yes. But that still will not end the controversy of workout supplements and it surely won’t clear up the public’s perception of them. The NFL’s recent ban of ephedrine after the tragedy involving Korey Stringer and MLB’s consternation with Andro during McGuire’s home run race point to the fuzziness of the issue. It seems, in the public’s eyes, anything outside of an apple is an unnecessary cheat. As if, using any chemical substance not found in grocery store is automatically unnecessary and unsportsman-like.

Take, for example, the above two examples. Yes, ephedrine has been linked to several cases of heart disease and it possibly might damage the liver. Yet, many millions have used ephedrine safely as a weight loss agent and as a stimulant similar to coffee. And as far as Andro goes, the main component of its aid in muscle growth is an increase in testosterone. This is largely the same thing illegal steroids do. But, the mineral Zinc also does this. And so might large portions of red meat. So the issue becomes, at what point is too much testosterone too much? Different bodies and different genetic backgrounds cause people to have a wide variety of testosterone levels as a natural biological function. If one decides to increase that level, yes they are manipulating their bodies and yes there is the possibility of danger, but the same manipulating is achieved by scarfing down too much sugar or by eating a large variety of vitamin-rich vegetables.

All of this is not meant to suggest that popping pills and taking supplements willy-nilly is in any way a good idea. Thorough research should be done by anyone thinking of taking workout supplements. This article is more a reaction to the hypocrisy involved in sports wherein any sort of supplement is frowned upon, yet the athletes are still expected to be supermen. After all, you can’t tell someone to crash their car into the wall then get upset with them when they didn’t wear a seat belt.

 

Originally published:
Issue Twenty-One
August 2002

 

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