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.
Hey Icedog, Nice blog! I am shocked that there are not more comments! Firstly, I gotta say that I agree with 90% of what you've stated. However, I am not sure if you are implying that the steroids caused Benoit to kill his family? I mean he's not like an impaired driver killing a family. His wife's, son's and finally his own death occurred days apart. I don't know of any " 'roid rage" that lasts that long. I'm not saying that the "other substances" didn't play a part though...I completely agree that steroids need to be removed from professional sport, doing so would require a grandfathering clause for each sport. Have each player entering their 1st year in the subsequent sport report for scheduled testing once per month for like 10 consecutive months per year allowing for about 2 months away for travel, living outside North America etc. The testing would continue for the entire length of the players career, with a three strike policy... and definitely OUT after 3 strikes. (completely cost prohibitive but would be effective)This should prevent the large percentage of banned players if the testing program was sprung on everyone at once. It would also clean up professional sports through atrition.One last thing, wrestlers are like actors... are we really gonna start testing actors? Would Sylvester Stallone be banned from acting now after being caught with steroids? We also wouldn't need an agreement with the gov't for past offences cause you can't charge someone for possession of an illegal drug just because it is in their blood/urine alone. Furthermore, to possess steroids for personal use is NOT an offence in Canada. Now buying or selling them is a different story so don't get any ideas... lol.wujones
I was kind of suprised to see that there are steroids out there that are out of the blood system in 24-48 hours. As a gym rat, I to almost succumbed to the easy way of building at the age of 19. Thankfully, a nurse I new at the time talked me out of it. However if I were a athlete on the cusp of becoming a pro, I certainly think I would have used roids to get to the next level. I am not to sure what can be done to stop the cycle that athletes are in using, other than trying to regulate the business and distribution of them. Steroids are going to remain an issue in sports, and beating the tests will be part of it. Should the leagues keep blood samples and urine samples on record so that when a new way of testing a masked agent is developed athletes will face the music? Does the public care that much? Unfortunately, I doubt most fans care that much, they just want their teams and their players to perform better than their opponents.
Interesting blog.You raise some valid points but you should not conclude that "regular joes" who happen to be in great shape are automatically on something. I have competed in several shows and work extremely hard for all my gains but yet I always get asked if I am using any gear. Some people work work EVERY single day to earn their results. Their diets are flawless and they put their bodies through punishment to achieve that end. Also, you will never eliminate performance enhancing drugs from sport because there are always going to be new drugs developed which will be untestable similar to HGH currently. The systeam is improving and just because someone takes steroids it does not make them a better athlete. They still have to work hard and eat right or its all for not.
wujones - Thanks for the comments! some very good points raised...I didn't mean to imply that Benoit committed these crimes out of 'roid rage'. I just meant that since they found steroids in his system, even if they appear to be just the pain killing kind, it will be more for the new services to dwell on. In some ways, that's OK...but I guess I just get a little upset with the hypocrisy sometimes.
Nolanitis - I know of a two people that are/were good minor league athletes that faced that same problem. Both think they needed to juice to take the next step. One tried...but even that wasn't enough and the other is currently still considering his options. He figures he either will take that step and see what happens, or call it a career (he's young). Both of them see the usage all around them...
Max to the House - I hear you loud and clear. 15 years ago I was one of those 'regular joes' who was pretty committed to the process (now I workout just as hard, but not as often...and I am more relaxed with my diet). I realized that I would never be a body builder (I didn't have the right genetics and I wasn't going to take steroids), but I was determined to work as hard as I could to improve myself. There were a couple of guys that were a few years younger than me that had some big strength gains in a very short period of time and I figured they were on something. Then one day, the two of them were openly discussing their "cycles" during a workout.