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Talk with D-Rok: re-thinking performance enhancements

By Derek Helling, Sports Editor | Apr 24, 2014
Photo by: Journal file photo Derek Helling

I have always been completely indifferent to professional athletes taking alleged “performance-enhancing” substances for a variety of reasons.
The first reason is that there is absolutely zero clinical evidence to prove that any substance ingested by an athlete has actually enhanced any athlete’s performance to a significant degree, and that said substance was the sole cause for any enhancement. It’s nearly impossible to prove.
In order to do so, a researcher would have to closely monitor every second of an athlete’s life for a determined period of time without the substance: what and when the athlete ate, when and how much he/she slept, the competition that he/she faced, etc. Then somehow the researcher would have to somehow reproduce the identical situation, controlling every detail to make the introduction of the substance the only difference between the two time periods. As I said, nearly impossible.
To piggy-back off of that, the question begs to be asked that if these substances are so powerful, then why can’t I, the average-to-poorer-than-average athlete take the substance and gain the same superhuman abilities critics claim they give athletes? Natural talent, practice and experience are the reasons why professional athletes can perform at the level that they can, not any “magic” pill that they may be taking.
I understand the potential health hazards of some of the substances, especially in cases of prolonged use. The same thing could be said of sugar.
The overconsumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay, inflammation of the coronary artery, diabetes, etc. Are we going to start criticizing athletes who have a candy bar because they could be harming themselves by doing so? Professional athletes are exponentially more aware and disciplined about what they take into their bodies than the rest of the population because their livelihoods depend on their optimal health. It’s time to let them do their jobs.
Another criticism levied against athletes who take substances is the “moral obligation” they have to their fans, especially the children. My response is to simply state that it’s not a professional athlete’s job to educate anyone else’s kids. They are paid to perform and most of them have their own children to worry about. If a parent is concerned about her/his children getting the wrong message about supplements, they need to address that themselves.
The most laughable factor in this situation for me is the claim that when an athlete is taking a supplement, her/his performance isn’t “natural.”
If we are going to cut out any activity that might produce a result that isn’t the result of what the individual was born with, then athletes shouldn’t be allowed to build muscle by lifting weights, wear eyeglasses or get corrective surgery, wear eye black, wear shoes, etc.
Finally, there is the hypocrisy of the double standard that sport is held to that no other form of entertainment is. For example, the film industry routinely uses computer-generated images to enhance the product. Some films are completely composed of such material. Yet for whatever reason, that is not assailed as “unnatural” and shunned.
It’s time that we fans start to actually think about athletes taking substances. Aren’t we constantly watching to see the previously established records broken and the limits challenged? I’m not advocating for more supplement uses. It just makes no difference to me if an athlete does it. I will celebrate the breaking of boundaries either way.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 28, 2014 22:50
Posted by: Glen Peiffer | Apr 28, 2014 20:32

Mark McGwire ended more than a decade of speculation when he acknowledged that he used steroids during much of his Major League playing career, including in 1998, when he broke Major League Baseball's single-season home run record. However, he insisted that he took the substances only to aid in his recovery from injury and only in low doses. And he said repeatedly that he did not believe the drugs had increased his ability to play once he took the field. "I truly believe that I was given this gift by the man upstairs." Mark McGwire disliked being a role model for anyone. One time a father and his son approached him for his autograph. At first he refused but the father was insistent saying that he was his son's idol. Mark replied, "Why don't you be your son's idol? I'm just a ball player." The father didn't understand and just looked at Mark in bewilderment. Finally, Mark signed the autograph and then just walked away.

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