Can’t Rely on Morals and Principle to Keep Out PEDs

    In sports, we have seen this all over the board. Jose Conseco laid all the gory details out in a book. Mark McGwire looks as if he’ll never get into the Hall of Fame despite his homeruns. Marion Jones was stripped of five Olympic medals. Barry Bonds was indicted for perjury. BALCO ruined many lives and tore down many a childhood poster.

    These people cheated and their lives became lies to not only themselves, but to millions everywhere. Their coaches are humiliated, their families ashamed and their reputations are more shot than Mrs. Robinson’s.

    So the big question, if you should never cheat, is why these athletes choose to cheat. For example, English sprinter Dwain Chambers — European Record Holder and Champion in 2002 — received a two-year ban from athletics and a lifetime ban from the Olympics for testing positive for THG in 2003.

    THG is an anabolic steroid that binds to the androgen receptor in cells and changes how gene traits are expressed. However, on top of being banned, this drug also leads to infertility, adding to the mystery of why he would take it in the first place.

    In his book, “Race Against Me,” Chambers says he took THG to get an edge, that one one-hundredth of a second that can be the difference between gold and silver. He estimates that half of the athletes at the Beijing Games in 2004 were taking banned substances.

    Why? In many cases, the athletes genuinely don’t know. They are given a regimen by their “nutritionist” and are expected to follow it as they follow their training regimen: with exactitude. It’s their job to do so and, by doing so, to win. This leads to the next point of sustaining a living. Without their wins, the athletes don’t get paid. If everyone else is doping and you’re not, you are likely to lose.

    But how can the world of sports expect athletes to stay away from drugs when the very thing every athlete strives for — that little edge over the competition that lets you scratch and kick by to victory — is so ingrained in their minds?

    That restraint is probably supposed to come from some sense of morality. The purity of building strength and skill over time in an individual is the only allowable building block for greatness. Cheating to get a better base leads to life and success being a lie.

    What strikes me, though, is that none of us are really equal.

    I said it. When you were young you were probably told you could be whatever you want to be if you work hard at it. Frankly, that’s a lie. Physically, if you are under 5’6”, you will not be an NBA player. If you do not produce as much testosterone as the next guy, you will not be a weightlifting champion. If you are over 6 feet tall, you will not fly fighter jets for the USAF. I’m sorry if I burst your bubble.

    If no one is equal, why not allow there to be a leveling of the playing field? Why not let those that those who work hardest and have the best technology get the greatest gains? Pure strength is an attribute, but there is a limit to how much that strength will help you swing a baseball bat or shoot a basketball. Skill is still a valuable asset that, in most cases, cannot be beaten by adding more muscle. As a javelin thrower, I know this better than most. In effect, I have gone without a bench press for several months (yes, I am crying inside), but the lift and added muscle in my chest would actually inhibit my ability to throw.

    I am in no way condoning the use of banned supplements. I am merely stating the fact that the morality of equality behind the bans is questionable, and actually making the athletes stop looking for that edge is improbable.

    In Chambers, who competed last weekend at the Triton Invite, we find that rather than being weakened as a result of the ban from Athletics, he instead set the European 60-meter dash record free of steroids in 2009. His genes are just better for running than mine. Period. I will never be that fast, no matter how many drugs I take and how sterile I become. On the other hand, steroids would make a one one-hundredth of a second of a difference for him and give him the edge he needed.

    One part of me wants to see the pinnacle of human innovation and skill, the balance of drugs and training combined in every aspect of making us better as a species out there on the field. How incredible it would be to see an eight-second 100-meter dash, a 700-foot home run, or a dunk from outside the NBA three-point line.

    The other part of me loves the simple man, with no added benefits, just being genuinely better than everyone else.

    The latter part always wins out. I want to work harder than everyone else, and if they beat, me, I assume they are better than me and I need to work harder to beat them. If I win like that, I know it is me winning, not science. I would rather be better than every competitor naturally than know my life and work was a lie, or could be claimed more rightfully by someone else.


    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $210
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal