The tragedy involving the deaths of Chris Benoit and his family has been making a lot of news headlines. The 24 hour news services couldn't get enough of it in the days immediately after the murders and the recent findings that Benoit had steroids in his system (among other substances) at the time of his death is sure to push this story further into the living rooms of America and the world.
The news media has been quick to point the finger in anger and ask a lot of questions about "how is this possible" that reflect either how ignorant they are of this use/abuse or how it's more important to sell a story than it is to work out a solution. We ALL have to realize that we have played a part in making this problem what it is today. We show highlight reels of athletes in action...we pay the tickets to see them in person...we interview them in front of millions...we pay them millions to indorse our products...we honor them as if they are super-human...all the time, helping to build the beast we have to deal with today.
The truth is, steroid use among athletes has been going on for many years (30 plus). And only now, when it is creeping into middle school athletic programs, have we decided we need to do something about it.
The problem is, like any situation that has been watched with a blind eye by so many for so long, the fix can't happen overnite...at least not without crippling the billlion dollar professional sports industries and the countless other businesses that rely on them.
Some people will read this and say I am exaggerating. Where are my facts?
That's a fair question.
I am basing my opinion on: what I have read in magazines, books and yes, the dreaded internet; what I have seen in the evolution of the amatuer and professional athlete over the past 30 years; my own personal observations from working out in gyms over the past 25 years; and good old common sense.
When you look around the local gym and can safely guess that a few guys (who are not professional athletes) are "on something" you have to think that at least a good number of the college and pro athletes are too.
When you watch professional wrestling and see what these guys look like and how so many of them have signs of steroid use, you have to at least guess that a good number of them are using steroids or some type of illegal growth hormones.
When you look at how the general size and strength of athletes has increased over the last 20-30 years -- some of it is because we know more about eating right and using better training techniques -- but you have to guess that substances played a role too. Especially when you read reports about how, as a whole, our society is becoming less active and more obese.
You may read this and think I have a negative opinion of these athletes.
On the contrary...completely. I actually find it difficult to blame the athletes for any of this. These people are "TYPE A" personalities (most anyway). They wouldn't be where they are if they behaved differently. People with this personaity type will do what they need to be successful. And if the league that governs them only watches what they do with a passing interest, you can bet they are going to take advantage of all the resources within reach to insure success. If you were one of these people and knew (or thought) that there were a lot of other athletes that were using steroids, what would you do? If you thought it was OK, because eveybody was involved, and you knew it could make you a better player, or extend your career, what would you do? How can you blame them?
Back to my main point...
If they really want to stop the use of illegal steroids/substances, ALL professional sports (and maybe collegiate too) need to enforce strict regular testing of ALL their athletes. While this is problematic on many levels (including the difficulty in detecting newer substances) the biggest reason why it's not in place today is because of how damaging it would be to the professional sports industry.
What would the WWE do if 75% of it's athletes were banned?
Bodybuilding if 75% were banned?
The NFL if 60% were banned?
Baseball and Basketball if 40%?
Hockey if 30%?
These are just numbers I am making up...but are they that far from the truth? Even if they are just half of what I posted, it could be catastrophic.
In order for us to get to the step of testing everybody, there would almost ceratainly have to be some kind of agreement with the govenrment not to prosecute for past offenses. It's the only way that I can see the governing bodies of these sports ever admitting any neglegance or wrongdoing. Plus...what good would prosecution do at this point? It would simply be a waste of taxpayers money.
If there were such an agreement...and strict testing was instituted with offenders being suspended or banned...you would start to change the thinking of these young atheletes who today feel they need to use these drugs to have any chance at turning pro.