by Kirk Mango
Continuing our discussion on why legalizing PED use at the upper level of sports is not such a good idea, there are a few other aspects that we must address. Without doing so would leave the conversation incomplete, rendering it much less valuable.
The legalization of performance-enhancing drugs would drastically change the landscape of sports. Sports competition would become more of a battle to find and utilize the best chemist and best chemical mix of drugs in order to gain the most advantage over one's competitor. Effectively, this would diminish the importance of who is willing to put in the most effort, commitment, sacrifice, heart, discipline, etc. (all intrinsic components) in order to defeat their opponent. In essence, it becomes more a competition of drugs, not a competition of who has what it takes on the inside to become the best athlete.
And for many, maybe most, this stuff on the inside is what makes up the "story" of the athlete. The thing that intrigues people most about who they are, how they are able to do what they do, and the obstacles they faced and had to overcome relying simply on their determination, inner will and grit to make it. People relate to that, it is something they can aspire to, these intrinsic things. The use of PED's diminishes all of that; it taints anything that may have been accomplished.
As I stated in Part I on the "Trickledown Effect," legalizing PED's would force all to use. There would be no other option, as in order to effectively compete you would have to follow the performance-enhancement path. There would be no other choice other than not competing, and somehow I don't see that as positive.
Some may contend that that is the way it is now. My retort to that statement would be that yes, we are headed that direction and will continue to do so if we don't do something more. It is the whole reason why WADA even exists, as well as rules put in place by other sports-governing bodies (albeit I sometimes question their seriousness). All are trying to clean things up and move more toward a PED-free playing field. One where an athlete's true athleticism can thrive and real genetic potential can be reachedâ€•not the distortion of such.
And for those that believe this "effect" steroids and other PED's supposedly have is all blown out of proportion, that there is no real proof that these substances truly enhance performance all that much, to them I would say they lack the understanding of the power of some of these substances and chemicals.
A coach I know very well in MMA has discussed the issue in his sport with me on many occasions. He has stated that his fighters cannot believe the grip, and other, strength that users have when you get out there on the mat and compete against them. It is tremendous, as they (the users) dictate through sheer power how the match will go. So what other choice does an MMA fighter have if they love their sport and want to compete at a high level?
If a governing body does not take initiative to set proper guidelines regarding these substances, or a general sports-governing body such as WADA doesn't take up the fight, then who will? And if no one steps forward to take action, where does that leave the athlete?
Some would argue that if legalized, there would be no need for WADA, and guidelines would then shift toward making use more safe for athletes (something I will reveal toward the end of this piece to be a mistaken belief). However, I again would ask, where does that leave the athlete?
Furthermore, those that think taking the "juice" cannot help an athlete, say, hit more homeruns, well…I would say to those individuals that they lack the knowledge of how important the kinetic chain is in athletic movement. You enhance one link in that kinetic chain and movement throughout the chain gets more efficient and more effective. You enhance more links and the effect is exponential. And PED's do have an important impact on different pieces of that kinetic chain.
The "winning at all costs" attitudes and the loss of perspective in our current sports and youth sports culture is bad enough as it is. What do you think would happen to those two aspects if PED's were made legal? And don't forget the trickledown effect here as well, as these perspectives are already too commonplace at almost all levels of sports. They are plastered all over the media on a regular basis.
As important as all the other aspects I have already discussed are, with regard to PED legalization, this one truly hits home with me. The real value in athletic endeavor (from my perspective) isn't in becoming all-state or an all-American; nor is it in winning a state, national, Olympic, or professional championship, the true value is gained within the "process" part of those achievements. It is something that comes from inside oneself, it is intrinsic in nature, and is developed over longer periods of time.
It is part of who we are as human beings because this process part is controlled by us through the choices that we make. Our work ethic with regard to the amount of effort we put in, the commitment, perseverance, discipline, and heart we are willing to apply, the sacrifices we are willing to make and priorities we are willing to set, along with so many other intrinsic components, all play an important role in who we are as individuals, as teammates, as athletes. They, in combination, are a big part of making you…well, you.
Traveling a path of PED use changes this very important piece because it changes that "you" into something different. Performance-enhancing drugs change your body's chemistry, artificially. It is not an adaptation the body makes as it might when training at elevation or training in general, nor the same as gaining benefits from proper nutrition, taking vitamins or supplementation that the body needs to stay healthy, getting enough rest, etc. It is something completely different. It changes one's chemistry to the point where it falsely inflates one's genetic potential, creating the possibility of successes that were not possible without it.
In essence, you are not really "you" as your biological chemistry is different. You've become something that you really are not, something you were never intended to be. Thus, any accomplishment achieved through the use of steroids and PED's isn't really an accomplishment at all. At least not one that you really achieved. The win is tainted, as is the possibility of gaining the intrinsic value out of the process part of those accomplishments. Intrinsic values don't come out of false achievements. And drug-induced achievement, in my book, is just not true achievement.
Why? Because you aren't really the same person anymore; at least according to your biological parameters.
Even if PED's were made legal, how could anyone take real pride and sense of accomplishment in a competitive sports success that was achieved because your chemist, and the chemicals you used, were better than your competitors. Different training methods, equipment and tactics used, etc., don't change your biological makeup, steroids and other PED's do.
And this idea that legalizing them will make for a healthier, more controlled sports environment by allowing the monitoring of said substances is a false premise at best. The whole idea of using is to give one an edge over their competition, any way possible.
If one thinks that legalizing performance-enhancement drugs will change anything with regard to that point, they are deluding themselves as that mindset behooves one to look elsewhere for an edge, no matter what the cost.
So, in effect, it is not the drugs that are the issue at all, it is the "winning at all costs" attitudes and loss of perspective on what sports really should be about (mentioned under the sports environment piece above) that will continue to push athletes to seek "any" means to best their competition. Legalizing them changes nothing, bringing in the "proper" perspective changes everything. And it brings back to the athletes table those intrinsic components and values we should be holding in high regard.
Me? I would opt for greatly improving testing and monitoring procedures, increase penalties for users (especially repeat users), and work toward changing the mindset of younger, talented athletes who someday may be able to set a better example for those who follow in their footsteps.
But that's just me.