It’s funny, but Tommy Mule on WCMF was just talking about some of this on my ride into work today. I’d meant to write this up last night, but didn’t get the time. . .
Really, what is it about steroids that is so bad? I don’t mean that they’re not bad, but I’m just wondering what it is about them that we object to so strenuously while not in the same moment objecting to any number of other chemicals players dope their bodies up with. There is an entire industry built around the idea of either making professional athletes stronger or patching up injuries so they can go back out onto the field and play hurt. Are we so sure what they’re doing is ethical simply because they might have eschewed the use of one chemical over another?
It is an interesting question once you begin to dig beneath the veneer of major league sports and get at the truth of what they’re all doing. Really, ethics are a very relative thing in a world where athletes push their bodies beyond breaking and corporations making billions actively encourage it so they can sell beer during the commercials. And it’s a fair question: are we just kidding ourselves about the steroids thing?
Roger Clemens was on 60 Minutes last night, doing an amazingly poor job of convincing me he didn’t take steroids to improve his performance. He did an fine job of convincing me his ego wouldn’t allow him to admit any failing as an athlete. Over the course of the conversation with Mike Wallace, among the more interesting revelations was this passage:
Clemens says McNamee did in fact inject him, but only with “Lidocaine and B-12. It’s for my joints, and B-12 I still take today.””And that’s all?” Wallace asks.
“That’s it,” Clemens says.
. . .
Clemens told 60 Minutes he got legal injections from team trainers, mostly painkillers.
“The number of shots that you get over the course of a season, which was many for me. Whether they be vitamins or for pain, Toradol. Pain shots. To go out and perform. I had one of my biggest arguments with Joe Torre. He’s wanting to scratch me on one of the biggest starts of the season. Had a small tear in my hamstring and a golf ball in my elbow,” Clemens recalls. . .
Lidocaine, B12, Toradol, Vioxx. Presumably, other unnamed “painkillers.” So, now I know why at least one MLB team is called “the Phillies”: Man o’War never had this many chemicals shot into his veins.
If we are to understand Mr. Clemens correctly, he had no problem getting doped up on painkillers before a game so he can get out there and play. He had no problem popping Vioxx so he could ignore the screaming of his torn muscles. He had no problem shooting up vitamins instead of just eating right like a normal person. . . . but steroids, well, those are just beyond the pale.
He might very well be innocent of actually taking steroids. I don’t believe it for a second, but what the hell? I wasn’t there, and maybe he really didn’t take the damned things. But if he didn’t, and every other thing he did to his body is entirely legal and considered ethical, where does that leave us?
When the investigations into alleged steroid abuse started four years or so ago, we were told that the danger was that kids who looked up to athletes might start using steroids if they knew their heroes did. The point was to show kids that the use of steroids was unethical cheating and that needed to be brought to justice. The point was that we didn’t want kids getting hurt in an abusive system.
But this is an industry where, before anyone has made dime-one, kids are leaving high school with permanent injuries. Wrestlers are wrapping their bodies in cellophane and exercising to lose weight. If they make it to college ball, they’re definitely becoming aquainted with sports “doctors” who will pump them full of painkillers and bandage up injuries to get them back out onto the field. Then they get into the majors, where every day, they risk getting replaced by someone younger and stronger. And every step of the way, their bodies get treated like machines, patched up to momentarily delay their inevitable collapse. Athletes are admired for “playing hurt,” and showing their dedication to the game.
But we don’t want kids getting hurt? I kinda think we do, just not our own.
And what about the rest of us? Housewives on anti-depressants; executives on Viagra; musicians getting high before shows; “Those Damned Blue Collar Tweakers,” snorting meth and going to work. It seems to me that any life you want to live, there is a pill to get you there quicker. Are we hurting kids by letting them grow up to be athletes, or are we all just using the predispositions nature gave us and “building” ourselves out of chemicals science provides us?