Role models should set better examples (steroids)

Sorry, Charles Barkley. You may have famously said “I am not a role model,” but the fact is, you are.

You may say that “parents should be role models,” and you’re right: they are and should be the primary role models in any young person’s life.

But most people don’t live on farms anymore. Most people’s neighbors are closer than five miles away. And people have television, and the Internet.

 When a modern, communication-linked society such as ours has a widely perceived set of questionable values, it’s hard for parents to steer against the current. And so, other positive role models become important as well. Hillary Clinton was right: it does take a village to raise a child.

We need good role models in that village. To his credit and despite his demurral, Barkley, a Hall of Fame basketball player, is a pretty good role model. He played with honor and distinction, and now is a respected, genial and insightful analyst and author.

Many other athletes, though, have failed their adoring fans. The World Health Organization and other international bodies, at a conference last week in Stockholm, laid much of the blame on elite professional athletes for their finding that the use of performance-enhancing drugs in sports has become a “public health issue,” and that use of steroids and human growth hormone is increasing in U.S. high schools.

“What we have learned in the last 10 years is that there is a trickle-down effect into recreational sports and into the high schools,” said David Howman, general director of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The WHO said it “takes this issue quite seriously.” You should, too.

Performance enhancement obviously gives users a competitive advantage, pressuring others to do the same to keep pace. Most high school kids don’t need more pressure to behave badly than they already have. Yet many feel they cannot achieve their dreams without endangering their health in search of an edge, the same edge that got their heroes multimillion-dollar contracts and public adulation.

Is it too much to ask of elite athletes, even if they don’t want the burden of being role models, that they at least not serve as models of bad behavior? Is it too much to ask that they consider the children of the fans who pay their enormous salaries? Every “hero” who turns out to be a cheater makes cheating seem a little more acceptable to impressionable young minds and boundless competitive spirits.

The warning issued in Stockholm should be taken seriously in every home and school in South Florida. We recoil at the thought of routine testing of young athletes, but all parents and coaches should educate themselves about the signs of PED use and how to protect their kids from it.

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/editorials/fl-palm-editorial-steroid-0927-20121015,0,1624274.story

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