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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sour Juice: Time to Strike-Out the Steroid Menace - By Ken Mannie

Ken Mannie is the head Strength/Conditioning Coach at Michigan State University. Originally posted on NaturalStrength.com on February 6, 2006


Slugging it out on the Hill The fight against steroids in baseball and the entire sports culture is in extra innings. There are no runs, no hits, but more than enough errors to take us into the next decade. No need to mention any names here. You’ve heard the apologies, listened to the alibis, witnessed the shoulder shrugs, and maybe even read the tell-all book. Recently, a few heavy hitters were forced to step-up to the plate before Congress. A couple of them at least took a few solid swings at the questions. Sadly, one in particular decided to take ball four. Everyone winced with furrowed eyebrows and scratched their heads as he blatantly evaded the committee’s direct, pointed questions.

Should we take his advice, wipe the slate clean, and drop all of the “negative” talk about the past as if it never happened? Why don’t we just sit in the dugout, spit some chew, and adopt a “can we all just get along” attitude? No – a million times, no! There is too much at stake. High Price of Ignorance This really isn’t about the baseball players who have abused steroids. Whatever damage they have self-inflicted on their reputations, Hall of Fame consideration, and internal organs, is done. They have duties and responsibilities to maintain the integrity of the game. Those who used illegal drugs made the decision to drop the ball. We are talking about grown men who are supposed to be educated on the harmful effects of these drugs on their health and careers. They should know better. This isn’t even about baseball. The crux of this debacle is the fact that we continue to spin in this vicious web of ignorance, deception, and fractured rationalizations. Sure, baseball is currently in the eye in this chemical maelstrom. It is a problem they have earned over the past few decades through their “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” overtures regarding legitimate steroid testing. They deserve the black eye – one that has been blind for far too long. Little Eyes are Upon You.

This is about accountability and a level playing field that’s awfully bumpy right now. For parents and youth coaches, this is about the health and well-being of youngsters who emulate and idolize pro ballplayers. What’s that, Mr. Big Time Ballplayer, you say that you don’t want to be a role model for young people? Well, sorry about that, slugger! It comes with the territory of your chosen profession that includes a multi-gazillion dollar contract, all of that television face-time, an adoring fan base, and the oversized shoe endorsement. The same shoes, incidentally, that thousands of Little Leaguers have their bright, innocent eyes and hearts set on filling some day. More importantly, it comes with everything that is sacred and admirable about sports. You say that parents should be the role models, right? No argument there. Parents should be good at what they do – parenting. But you guys are bigger than life to these kids. Unfortunately, it’s the way some of you are getting big that’s hurting everyone and the game you represent. Seventh Inning Stretch of the Truth Anyone who hasn’t lived in a cave for the past 30 years is well-aware of the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs in every sport. Did Major League Baseball really think that this monster lived in everyone’s closet except theirs? Was baseball’s hierarchy under the convoluted assumption that steroids are only abused by weightlifters, bodybuilders, football players, and bar bouncers? There was a lot of rhetoric about unions and collective bargaining during the hearing. Here’s a suggestion, MLB: Try interjecting some collective common sense into the next collective bargaining meeting. The initial proposal for the strong anti-steroid testing policy you so desperately need was rightfully met with consternation and antipathy. Why? Because it was a joke! It allowed for four strikes before a player is out for one year; complete with an addendum to allow him to buy his way out of suspension with a fine. Testing is meant to serve as a deterrent, an educational vehicle, and as a strident statement that illicit, illegal (a felony, in the case of steroids) drug abuse will not be tolerated. It is implemented with the intent of incontrovertibly eradicating harmful chemicals from the game. It has -- at its most rudimentary level -- the goals of protecting the health of the players and the very heart and soul of the game. Quite simply, it is serious business with serious consequences for those who choose to be non-compliant. Testing is not designed to be a weak, finger-wagging disciplinary stunt, or a public relations smoke screen.

Final Out

The most compelling, sensible, and heartfelt statements made on Capitol Hill in March came from the parents of athletes whose lives ended tragically. Donald Hooton, whose son, Taylor, a high school baseball player in Texas, committed suicide in 2003 after taking steroids, had this to say: “Players that are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters, you are cowards… Show our kids that you’re man enough to face authority, tell the truth and face the consequences. Instead, you hide behind the skirts of your union, and with the help of management and your lawyers, you’ve made every effort to resist facing the public today.” Denise Garibaldi of Petaluma, California, whose son, Rob, also used steroids and committed suicide, offered this: “There’s no doubt in our minds that steroids killed our son. Ultimately, we do blame Rob for his use. …However, with his sports heroes as examples, and Major League Baseball’s blind eye, Rob’s decision was a product of erroneous information and promises.” It’s time to put some sharp teeth into the MLB testing process and get rid of steroids, steroid precursors, human growth hormone, and the cheaters who abuse them. It’s time for MLB to cease this “half-baked doping policy which insults the intelligence of the U.S. public,” as stated by Richard Pound, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. Let’s hope that the hearing on the Hill helps to save baseball -- and prevents future players from driving off the steroid cliff. It’s way beyond the time to get tough on steroids.

Tip from the Trenches

Know the enemy -- Androgenic-anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone, testosterone. The term ‘androgenic” refers to the effects these chemicals have on male sexual characteristics. “Anabolic” is the most commonly heard term, and it refers to the promotion of skeletal muscle. Chemists have feverishly attempted to minimize the androgenic effects, while concurrently heightening the anabolic effects. In the clinical setting, and under stringent administration and monitoring, these drugs have certain useful medical indications – most significantly in severe burns, muscle-wasting diseases, and delayed puberty.

They are used illegally and illicitly by certain athletes and others who are looking for a short-cut to improve size, strength, power, physique, and/or self-confidence. Contrary to what abusers, underground publications, and pro-steroid web-sites fallaciously preach, there is no scientifically proven “safe” way to self-administer these potentially harmful compounds in every individual case. As with any drug, people react and respond independently to their effects. However, it has been shown that, over time, any one or more of several serious side-effects can surface. Just how long it will take before they rear their ugly heads is an individual anomaly. The bottom line, though, is that it is virtually impossible to continue an anabolic drug regimen without eventually suffering from one or more of the possible deleterious consequences listed here:

Note: While there are some very gender-specific possible health consequences from anabolic steroid abuse, the following represent some of the most serious for both males and females.

Increased LDL cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) and decreased HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks). Abnormal enlargement of the heart’s left ventricle, which can lead to serious malfunctions of the heart muscle. Strokes Liver dysfunction and/or tumors Certain cancers Increase in connective tissue injuries.

Disruption of endogenous (normal) hormonal production and functions, which can lead to a host of serious sexual and growth dysfunctions. Adverse mood swings and clinical depression.

For scientifically grounded, sensible, useful, and correct information on anabolic steroids – including educational avenues, intervention strategies, and the consequences of their abuse -- we suggest that you log-on to the following web-sites: www.ncaa.org, www.drugabuse.gov, www.drugfreesport.com, and www.jointogether.org -- Ken Mannie


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