Performance-enhancing-drug (PED) cheating in sports is getting out of control. The Ryan Braun/ Alex Rodriguez/ Biogenesis scandal is but the latest in what is becoming an increasingly long line of performance-enhancing-drug-related episodes.
Major league baseball has certainly had its share, with the late 1980s through the early 2000s now even being semi-officially referred to as the “Steroid Era.” Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro and Gary Sheffield are some of the names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of MLB stars who have been linked with PEDs.
Steroids were banned from MLB in 1991, but there was no league-wide testing until 2003, meaning that players used violated the ban on PEDs were unlikely to get caught. Jose Canseco’s autobiography Juiced indicated that PED use was widespread in MLB, and subsequent events have certainly verified that allegation.
Other sports have also seen scandals as some of their stars have also been caught doping. Think Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis-bicycling; Ben Johnson and Marion Jones-track and field; Ray Lewis and Shawn Merriman-NFL; etc.
And that’s just a brief sampling of names-sports from the professional level. What about the all the allegations of systemic steroid use in college athletic programs like Clemson? Even high school athletes have been known to try to gain a competitive edge by using various questionable substances.
What’s the answer to this apparently growing problem in sports? To answer that, I believe we have to identify what the root cause of all the cheating is. There’s an old saying, “If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” I HATE that saying.
What I believe is, “If you’re cheating, it’s because you’ve lost your perspective.” There are two reasons people cheat at sports: (1) At the amateur level, one cheats in order to win. (2) At the professional level, one cheats in order to get the financial rewards that result from winning and/or being perceived as a good player (endorsements, lucrative contracts etc.).
At the amateur level, if you cheat in order to win, you are taking it way too seriously. You have forgotten what sports are SUPPOSED to be about. Dedication, self-improvement, friendly yet fair competition, learning teamwork, physical fitness, having FUN playing a game…these are some of the benefits theoretically accruing from participation in amateur sports. You can enjoy all those benefits without “winning.”
Of course, winning is great. Everyone likes to win. But if one thinks its ok to resort to cheating in order to win, one needs to re-evaluate one’s priorities. It shouldn’t be that important to you, and if it is, there’s something out of balance in your value system.
Page 2 of 2 - It is somewhat easier to understand why professional athletes cheat. There are millions of dollars at stake in advertising endorsements and lucrative multi-year contracts. And whose fault is that?
What it comes down to is, the viewing public—the fan— is at fault. Again, it comes down to a lack of perspective. The reason there is so much money in professional sports is because we, the viewing public, have made professional sports too important. We are willing to part with way too much of our hard-earned cash to support our favorite teams, and (with the possible exception of Cubs fans) no one is willing to accept “their team” being a loser.
If fans wouldn’t pay huge fees to park their car, ridiculous amounts for a beverage at the stadium, and hundreds of dollars (in some cases) for tickets, there wouldn’t be as much money in the pot. If fans wouldn’t buy the products that sponsor televised broadcasts of sporting events, there wouldn’t be as much money in the pot. And there would be less reason for athletes to cheat.
But because we fans ARE willing to part with that money, there are gigantic paydays in the world of professional sports. And ‘winners’ get even bigger paydays, so there exist financial reasons to cheat.
It’s an economic issue, a supply and demand issue. As long as there is high demand for professional athletes who excel—and the athletes who excel the most get the most pay, there are going to be athletes who cheat in order to become more “excellent’ so they can reap the extra financial rewards.
I have seen articles that argue that fans don’t care if pro athletes cheat as long as their team wins. That’s just sad, but it proves my point. Pro athletes aren’t going to quit cheating as long as they perceive that they stand to benefit financially from cheating.
I am all in favor of the ‘death penalty’ for athletes who use PED. But let’s not forget that we fans are the reason they do it. Unless we are willing to exercise some perspective, sports figures are going to continue to reap ridiculous financial rewards, and use whatever methods they must in order to achieve them.