Andrew McGilligan | Out of WriteField
In a recent column by Bill Simmons he reprinted a letter from a reader in regards to Performance Enhancing Drugs. Here’s the text of the letter:
In The Wire when Marlo is about to begin his war with Avon to become the top dealer, he is warned “Anyone that wore that crown either ends up in jail or dead.” Marlo’s response is one of my favorite lines from the series, “At least they got to wear it.”
There’s a lot of hand-wringing and disgust from people regarding athletes use of PED’s, but the question you have to ask yourself before condemning it is this: Would you do it?
Before you answer, try and put yourself in the position of a professional athlete, difficult to do since most of us will never achieve that level of fitness, athletic ability, fame, fortune, etc. But for the purpose of this exercise, just try and imagine. Millions of dollars in contracts and endorsements are at stake – you can basically set up your family for generations with the right deal. The adulation of adoring fans and the perks of being a pro athlete – sex, drugs and the ability to purchase anything you want or travel anywhere you want because of fame and fortune.
What would you do to keep yourself in that lifestyle? Would you take a drug that doesn’t turn you into an addict, but rather heightens your natural ability enabling you to make more money and reach a higher level of your chosen sport? Athletic competition is based on winning – some say its participation that counts, but in the end everyone wants to be on the winning side. If an injection can bring you closer to the ultimate goal of winning a championship, wouldn’t you consider it?
When discussing PED’s there’s a sense that athletes, once they’ve started using, are no longer part of the equation. People only see the PED’s and discount the athlete’s ability. Does taking steroids help you hit homeruns? Absolutely, but being able to hit Mariano Rivera’s cutter doesn’t simply come from an injection. The drugs enhance, not completely take over the athlete’s body and control them. The athlete is still in control and their natural ability is still a major part of any performance.
All this to say, it’s easy to criticize athletes for taking PEDs. It’s cheating; it’s illegal and sets a bad standard for those who will follow in their footsteps. All of that is true. What’s difficult is to look at the situation and say you wouldn’t be tempted if you were in the position.