Steroids and sport: a deadly combination?

By Ashton Cermak.
Recently, Alex Rodriguez, The Mariner’s ex-shortstop, admitted to using banned substances from 2001 to 2003. He said he was under extreme pressure after signing -what was at the time- the richest deal in baseball history: a $252 million, 10-year contract with the Texas Rangers.
“I knew we weren’t taking Tic Tacs,” said Rodriquez in a statement last week.
Clearly this is an issue that hits close to home for those Seattleites who got to see A-rod in action when he was still the cornerstone of The Mariners franchise. After last week’s news, they are not sure how much that ball sitting on the windowsill is worth now.
Are people really surprised? A-rod’s confession comes after years of some of baseball’s greatest admitted or suspected wrongdoing. Mark McGwire never admitted to steroid use, but did admit to taking a steroid precursor. His former teammate Jose Canseco says in his tell-all book, “Juiced,” that he personally injected McGwire with steroids. Barry Bonds was involved in a major doping scandal that made it all the way to a federal grand jury, yet he still holds the career and season home run records.
Alex Rodriguez was born in New York, but grew up in the Dominican Republic. As a boy, he idealized and fantasized about the sports-star lifestyle, watching his heroes Keith Hernandez, Dale Murphy and Cal Ripken, thinking one day he could be in their shoes. Years later, faced with more money than he could even dream of, the pressure was on, and the little boy who sat glossy eyed in front of the TV, dropped his morals and ethics and juiced up.
Performance enhancing drugs aren’t just limited to baseball. In 2004, allegations began surfacing that seven time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong had been doping. Among the drugs he had been accused of using was EPO (erythropoietin), a drug that stimulates bone marrow to produce more oxygen-carrying red blood cells. This sparked a major controversy because EPO is also used by people coming off of cancer treatment. Chemotherapy often suppresses the bone marrow and the production of red blood cells; EPO is used to counteract this. For a while there were even speculations that Bristol-Myers Squibb, the pharmaceutical company that produced the drugs for Armstrong’s cancer treatment, also produced performance enhancing drugs for him that would not be detected in normal urine tests. He certainly had the money and the connections at Bristol-Myers Squibb since they practically made him the poster boy for beating cancer.
The Olympic Games, a testament to all the perfection and skill the human body is capable of, has not escaped the grasp of doping. At the 1980 games in Moscow, East Germany won 47 gold medals, a great feat by any standard, until some of the athletes started speaking out. Sprinters, shot-putters and swimmers-all women-reported being given strange pills by their trainers. When they asked what was in the pills, they were told either “vitamins” or not to ask questions and just take them. After one of the sprinters was arrested by the secret police at 7 a.m. and questioned as to why she wouldn’t take the pills, she fled to West Germany where a doping analyst identified the pills as anabolic steroids. All the women involved began to notice strange symptoms like deepening voices, facial hair and some of them even stopped having their periods. American sprinter Marion Jones, who was deemed “fastest woman alive” at the 2000 summer games in Sydney, admitted to taking steroids supplied by the same drug ring that allegedly supplied Barry Bonds.
The world of sports will never be the same, that much is for sure. The name of the game is breaking records, scoring endorsement deals and living the high life of the international sports star. With performance enhancers in the picture, the natural ability of the human body is obsolete and there is a new base line, a new norm for all athletes to rise above. With the advent of synthetic Human Growth Hormone, many medals and awards will be won by chemicals.
But we spectators can always take solace in the hope that maybe even dopers still believe in redemption and will confess to all their juicing.