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A Quick Note on Steroids in Sports

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Update:  It has been pointed out (correctly) that the Cushing photos below are actually reversed:  Cushing in high school is the bottom one, Cushing in college coming off surgery is the top one.  It doesn't change much of my thesis, however.  If anything, Cushing's highschool photos further my point.  The error is not changed below - feel free to make fun of me as much as you'd like.

 

You've probably noticed, over the past few days, a glut of content in the MSM regarding Steroids, A-Rod, and how they're both destroying American sports.  It happens every year around this time - right before pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training, the media members have nothing to write about, and blamo: manufactured outrage over people who are "faking it" and destroying sports we love.  Last year, it was the Mitchell Report.  This year, it's A-Rod, who (unbeknownst to me) was somehow annointed "baseball's savior" after the juiced era and has single-handedly destroyed baseball.

There are so many things wrong with that thesis that I'm not even going to touch it.  Instead, I direct you to a message board post - of all places - that will defend Baseball better than I can.  Scroll down to Misopogon's response.

Instead of getting into baseball, I'd like to have a word with you regarding football, basketball, hockey, golf, and all the other sports that are seemingly being spared the wrath of the manufactured outrage.

Do you want to know how a 6'5" 295 lbs. man can run a 4.6 40 and manage to push his body to the absolute threshold of "not falling apart" every Sunday for 17 consecutive Sundays, all while working out like a fiend in the downtime?  I'm looking at you Shawn Merriman.

Do you want to know how 17 year old high school kids (yes, high school kids) can have physiques that most people who are actually done growing will never achieve?

Do you want to know how Brian Cushing can go from this:

Cushing_medium

via www.trojanwire.com

to this:

Briancushing7_301200_medium

via vmedia.rivals.com**

The number of athletes in NCAA Division 1 football who are on Anabolic Steroids or HGH would stagger the public who claim to be so outraged at people like A-Rod.  And it starts in locker rooms of high schools across the country.  How do I know?  Because I've been in that locker room, and I've seen the High Schoolers doing it.  Whats more is that I don't doubt that there are countless others like it across the country.  It wasn't in some shady part of town: it was in the nicest suburb of a typical midwestern city.  That year, this team sent 3 kids to the Big Ten, 1 to a JuCo with the promise of Big Ten scholorships once his grades improved, and many others to smaller colleges across the country.  This isn't an isolated incident: this was many years ago, and I promise you it is happening right now.

The reasons for starting a cycle of steroids are many and predictable.  First it's addictive, like any other drug.  You see gains in the weight room, you look much better, your belly disappears, and your buddies are all very impressed.  Stop taking them, and you lose a little bulk, start dropping weight on your lifts, you feel slow, sluggish and fat.  The weak go back on another cycle to get that body - those results - that are simply not achievable by a "normal" man. 

Second, what if you're a guy who is just on the fringe of making it to a D-1 program?  What if you're a guy who is just on the fringe of making it to the NFL?  You see everyone else roiding - and everyone else cashing that check.  A better question might be "why the hell wouldn't you?"

A better question still, at least as it relates to football is this:  do the fans, the league, and those folks signing the checks really want to know?  The NFL is getting bigger, faster, and stronger by the minute.  Hits are more vicious now than they ever have been - and don't think there's not a reason for that.  The odd thing is that society, even as it condemns men like A-Rod for destroying national past-times, is loving it.  We can't get enough of the big hits.  Sure, we all feel bad when a player lays motionless on the turf - but guess which highlight is leading SportsCenter in the morning?

Don't think that hockey, basketball, or any other sport that relies on quick recovery time isn't immune to this either.  The dirty secret that nobody seems to want to talk about is the fact that steroids are impressive for building bulk, but they're probably more impressive for allowing the body to recover in record time.  It's why Roger Clemens took them - he could start a game, work out non-stop in between his next start, and then start another game in 5 days without breaking down.  There's a reason that the 3 years that A-Rod was juicing in Texas happen to be the 3 years in which he played in the most games.  Clemens wasn't trying to add 2 MPH to his already blazing fastball; he was trying, and succeeding, at making sure his fastball was blazing for every single game he appeared in.

Basketball players play 82 games in a regular season, and over a hundred including the postseason.  They play 4, sometimes 5 games per night.  Anybody in the NBA taking steroids isn't taking them to get massive biceps - they're taking them to make sure their body is ready for physical punishment over and over again for 6 months.  Hockey too.  To pretend that roid's aren't an issue in these sports is to intentionally pull the wool over your eyes. 

So you want to be outraged at Baseball players for taking steroids?  Go ahead.  Just be prepared to be outraged at every major sport in the world, because frankly, steroids are a part of the game at this point, and no amount of "cleaning up" in any sport is going to stuff all the anabolic and HGH back into Pandora's Box.  I don't have a magic bullet to fix it - nor am I entirely sure that we want it to be fixed.  That in and of itself may be a bigger problem than the steroids themselves.

**It's important to note that Cushing, nor the USC program as a whole, has never been accused of taking a banned substance.  The pictures are merely meant to illustrate one athelete who has made incredible gains in his 4 years at USC.