Nearly all agree the use of performance enhancing drugs — from steroids to human growth hormones — is dangerous for athletes of any age.
Yet, the use of these drugs to get an edge on the field has been a serious health problem for decades because the lure of the fame and fortune — no, make that fortunate and fame — is too great for many to resist.
Monday’s announcement by Major League Baseball that a dozen big leaguers will be suspended for 50 games for admitting they used performance enhancing drugs wasn’t a surprise.
But one player accused of taking PEDs, New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez, has not conceded he was involved with a Miami clinic where steroids and other drugs were injected. He is fighting a 200-game suspension, essentially contending he is innocent and the effort to link him to the latest PED scandal is a conspiracy.
And while his claim seems far fetched, the Yankees have 114 million reasons to cheer Rodriguez being linked to PEDs and having the remaining five years of his contracted voided. Of course, the Yankees would be happy to save even a few dozen million dollars from the $114 million owed Rodriguez.
The sports story has more contrived drama than an old-fashioned daytime soap opera.
But it is important to look past the bizarre Yankee-A-Rod dance to look at why it is important for professional sports to take even stronger action such as 50-game suspensions to reduce PED use as much as possible.
Star professional and college athletes are looked up to by young athletes who want to be like them. If the path to sports success is through PEDs, then many will take that route.
The use of these drugs can cause long-term physical and even emotional health problems. Steroid use can cause damage to the liver and cardiovascular problems. They can cause an increased risk of strokes and heart attacks, even in teenagers.
They can cause the testicles of boys and men to atrophy as well as infertility, baldness and increasing risk of prostate cancer.
PED abuse is a public health concern.
Additionally, those who use PEDs in baseball, football or any sport are an outright cheats.
Steroids and other PEDs carry serious health risks although they do get results. They can increase size and strength. With the increased muscle mass comes energy and aggressiveness.
While the cheating concern applies to all sports, it is particularly sensitive in baseball where everything a player does is measured by statistics. It goes beyond just the ability to make teams and win games.
When a record such as Roger Maris’ 61 homers in a season was shattered by Mark McGwire (an admitted steroid user) with 65 in 1999 and then Barry Bonds (who most believe was taking PEDs) with 73 in 2001 it stained the integrity of baseball.
Steroid use is wrong. The suspensions imposed in baseball on Monday are welcome.