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Do you care whether professional athletes use performance-enhancing drugs?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on August 4, 2006

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Photo of Jerry Porter

“I hate to see it because of the records. Other than the records, I really don’t care.”

Photo of Caleb Howard

“Yeah, because I think it sends a bad message to the people who look up to them: Why work when you can cheat?”

Photo of Stefanie Olson

“Yes, I do. It seems to take the sport out of it. It’s just not fair.”

Photo of Richard Gionet

“No, I don’t care. It doesn’t affect me in any way.”

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acg 11 years, 10 months ago

justsomewench I totally dig your idea. And, to add that extra kicker, randomly placed landmines on all of the playing fields. :)

jonas 11 years, 10 months ago

It should be made mandatory, to level the playing field again.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 10 months ago

Yep...I want my atheletes so juiced up that they barely look human.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

How appropriate: I believe Jerry Porter is also a wide receiver for the Raiders.

mooseamoose 11 years, 10 months ago

Good to see pastor Jerry isn't concerned about drug use.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

R_I, maybe "Torture Air" should be displayed in economy class on commercial airliners.

audvisartist 11 years, 10 months ago

Old men use Viagra, women get breast implants, why should I care if an athlete uses steroids or some other performance-enhancing drug? Everybody else is doing it, so why can't they?

justsomewench 11 years, 10 months ago

i'd be game for, especially in team sports, if we could then require an equal number of them take performing inhibiting drugs, too. that'd really throw some sport (and humor) into the competition.

bmwjhawk 11 years, 10 months ago

Eventually, all records will be unbreakable. We'll need performance enhancing drugs to make athletic events exciting. Why wait? Dope 'em all. I'm excited for 70-yard field goal kicks, 600-foot homers, and 500-yard drives. It'll be fun.

mooseamoose 11 years, 10 months ago

I think we should give pastors cognitive enhancing drugs - so they can read the bible faster, give shorter concise sermons and use their reasoning faculties better.

justsomewench 11 years, 10 months ago

acg, they should institute a 'doping lotto', to be fair. that way, you can't handpick which players get the bump vs. the kick. bring some equity into doping, i say!

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

For me, the issue is at what point do all of the "LEGAL" enhancements athletes make for unfairness when comparing to athletes of the past. The equipment (e.g., the MaxSight lenses, the body suits for swimmers, baseball & football GLOVES, streamlined helmets) itself changes the playing field.

What about all of the legal things that they ingest, including the type of food, vitamins, creatine?

What about all of the advances in training equipment or "rehab" techniques, and electrical stimulation and so one?

At what point do using a "performance enhancing substance" cross the line? Because it is against the rules? Why is it against the rules? The potential for harm? Being an athlete is hard on the body period. Look at former football players (e.g., Jerome Bettis) who can't even walk most of the week and other athletes who have nagging injuries that don't debilitate but certainly lead them to live in pain.

I am not in favor of people taking steroids and the like, but I am not sure why! I am also not sure where the bar is set, I think it might be set too high, thus making it so only "freaks" (unbelievable work ethic and commitment and genetic physical skills) have a chance to play sports.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Really, they need a way to make performance enhancers an actual disadvantage on the field. It must somehow be technologically possible. Some sort of anti-enhancer.

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

"Caleb" who answered the question above made me also think.... at what point is cheating really... ingenuity? I mean isn't it being clever and doing something more efficiently? At what point do we make something "wrong" so that it becomes cheating? I don't have a really good example that stands up to scrutiny... other than say a player crowding the plate or working really hard to shorten his swing.... those are both "adjustments" but there is a bit of ingenuity about them.

What if a player taking training enhancers is just being more efficient so that, in the limited number of hours in a day, he/she can get muscle gains more quickly to allow for time to do other things (both personal and professional/athletic)?

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Jayhawks, doing anything at the highest possible level takes serious work ethic, commitment and skills. That's not exclusive to professional sports. The athletic bar is high because the number of major league professional athletes in any sport is miniscule compared to the number of college athletes, which is small compared to the number of high school athletes.

Ken Miller 11 years, 10 months ago

Google the name Lyle Alzado and read about his career and life - particularly the end of both. That should be all you need to know to answer this LJW question.

ms_canada 11 years, 10 months ago

Yah, I sure do care, but what good will that do. The world has become so full of cheaters in every field of living. Like someone above said, breast implants, face lifts, tummy tucks, gorilla arms etc. Humans have gone crazy. Why compete. What does it say about an athlete who takes drugs? He does not have confidence in his own body, in his own ability. Listen buddy, work harder at it. But it is so much easier to take the chemical way, isn't it.

beatrice 11 years, 10 months ago

doula? Is that the same as a mid-wife?

Yes, I care. When the Pittsburgh Steelers go on to win their second Super Bowl in a row this year (6th overall), I want to know they did it through ability, not because of drugs. Steroids give an unfair advantage in competition, even if it does screw up other areas of the users' lives. It would be like letting a kid use a dictionary in a spelling bee. Where is the fun in that?

Life isn't fair, but our sports should be. I think drugs should only used by hosts of conservative talk radio.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

A while ago, someone -- it was either an ESPN Page 2 columnist or Bode Miller -- suggested the best idea yet: make steroid leagues. If you want to play clean, join this league; if you want to juice up, join the other.

gainesvillefl 11 years, 10 months ago

Good point, beatrice! And no, a doula is not the same as a midwife. A doula provides emotional and physical support for a laboring woman, but doesn't provide any medical services (delivering the baby, for example).

Sakuraba 11 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, pretty much like a mid-wife: A doula who accompanies a woman in labor mothers the mother, taking care of her emotional needs throughout childbirth. A doula also provides support and suggestions for partners that can enhance their experiences of birth. A postpartum doula continues that valuable emotional support and guidance, helping a family make a smooth transition into new family dynamics.

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

"baldness,body acne,short/violent temper enlarged heart (among other organs) testicles that will shrink in size high blood pressure, high cholesterol level"

Most of these things are associated with being male and hardly require steroids for any of them. Seen any bald guys lately? Is it the steroids? Seen anyone blow up over a failed business venture or their child getting arrested? Is it the steroids? Much of our society has high blood pressure and high cholesterol as side effects of being overweight/obese. Is it the steroids?

Regarding the concept of doing something through "ability" at what point do all of the legit enhancers and the fact that players (e.g., football) make enough money to devote their lives to playing and training for football compared to guys just 30 years ago who were working jobs in the summer to make a living. How is it fair to compare? I am not complaining that athletes can make a living being only athletes, but to compare them to the players of yesteryear is clearly unfair... which fairness seems to be the issue here. Sports are not fair, people need to get over that fantasy. The Royals are NOT given equality of opportunity, and thus, the playing field is unfair for them.

And finally, in response to your Lyle Alzado reference, I reference Barry Bonds. He is clearly a "cheater" yet he gets all the accolades for passing Babe Ruth (who was HARDLY the model for health). So, Alzado died as a result of his choices. Bonds is alive (for now) and is reaping the benefits of his steroid use.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 10 months ago

I see PE drugs as just plain cheating. No honor in that. "I can pop more pills than you so I win!" Pleeease! Those that choose to have a healthy body can't compete...or have a harder time doing so. I say we go back to Roman times and do the Olympics 'nekkid' again. Then we will know who is using!

I once saw a man with a HUGE torso and muscles ripping out of his shirt...but his legs were down right skinny. Is that PE drugs plus neglect to the lower half of the body or what? I was really confused.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 10 months ago

Jayhawk, Barry Bonds may not be the best example. Outside San Francisco, he's not really well-loved by too many people anymore. MLB has done its best to avoid making any fuss about his march toward the home run record.

Sue, I think the big torso/skinny legs man just watched too many cartoons.

badger 11 years, 10 months ago

There was an old SNL skit about the Steroid Olympics that I feel addressed this issue perfectly. Perhaps we could set up separate leagues for the athletes who want to use performance enhancing drugs?

I don't like performers who use steriods or performance enhancing drugs to eclipse the records of those who didn't use them. It's meaningless to say you can run faster than a 1976 Gold Medalist if you couldn't really do it without the drugs.

In team sports, it bothers me less because it's not a one-to-one advantage/disadvantage thing. A game isn't going to be lost for no other reason than that a runningback on one team uses steriods and none of the ones on the other team do. But in one-person sports, one player's use can give him an unfair advantage to win, and then we may eventually end up giving accolades not to the best athlete, but to the athlete with the best chemist.

The comparison to Viagra and breast implants only has validity to me for gigolos and strippers. Unless your use of Viagra or your breast augmentation has serious potential to increase your income, it's not quite equivalent to someone who gets a multimilliondollar endorsement contract for running/biking/swimming faster than someone else.

beatrice 11 years, 10 months ago

j-71: while the things you mention might be associated with men, they are exaggerated with steroids (temper, acne, organ problems). The exception would be the shrinking testicles, which I notice you conveniently avoided. I'm pretty sure gravity and time works in the opposite direction for non-steroidal men.

You are correct that it is difficult, if not impossible to compare eras in sports (the great Steelers teams of the 1970s, for instance, were indeed great, but could they beat the currently great Steelers team? Likely not, but it is fun to think about.) However, steroid use takes away even the remote possibility of comparing human achievements of the past with the present. It becomes more like comparing racing records of yesteryear with today's records. The faster the car the better chance of winning, the more steroids consumed the better chance of winning. It takes the "sport" out of it.

And Barry Bonds is hardly receiving accolades for his achievements. Haven't you seen the games were people are holding up "Cheater" signs wherever he goes? Mark Mcgwire would be a better example of fans sticking their heads in the sand about the drugs and only looking at the home runs. His disgrace came in front of a Senate panel, and only time will tell if he dies prematurely.

Ceallach 11 years, 10 months ago

Anonymous seems to be upset with you Jayhawk, and so is anonymous :)

Yes, I care.

Good for you, Caleb!!! How sad when an architectural intern takes a higher road than a pastor! What's that all about -- other than the fact that Caleb is a great young man. I know him and he is an example of the excellent students we have at KU. Now the Caleb's of campus don't get a lot of press, and very few kudos for their commitment to building character while getting an education, but they do exist and we are fortunate as a university, and as a society, to have them among us.

Shame on you Jerry. I can't believe your boss is happy with that response.

Of course there is always the chance that the LJW staff either miss quoted or edited what he said to the point that it no longer represented his true view.

linus 11 years, 10 months ago

Yes, I care...Everyone should care! Will our concern stop it? Unfortunately, no it won't.

On a different note...the stop signs at the Baldwin Junction were installed today. For anyone that drives that way...DON'T FORGET TO STOP!!!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 10 months ago

Sgt, You are so right about San Fran! When I was there, all you could get on the tele was Barry Bonds. He trumped all other news. Grass fires, rolling blackouts, cattle dy-off and the heat related deaths of at least 85 humans did not seem to be as important as "What will happen to poor Barry???" I was reminded of the time I was in labor (childbirth kind) for 28 hours and ALL that was on the TV was "the white Bronco chase." Argh

Ceallach 11 years, 10 months ago

Good old what's his name!!

sue: did you have a doula?

Ceallach 11 years, 10 months ago

All y'all have a good evening. I'm off to watch me some T-Bones baseball!!

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

Once again the haters arrive. My responses have to do with discussing WHERE the line is. If one wants to use the damage to one's body as a criterion for what "enhancements" are not OK, so be it. Playing sports themselves, in the long run are bad for the body.

Further, I didn't imply that those side effects aren't exacerbated or increased by steroids, I said those things often occur in MANY MEN without steroids. Nothing conveniently left out beatrice, shrunken testicles are, of the things you mentioned, the one MOST personal for a steroid user having minimal or no effect on other people. The "roid rage" is probably the most compelling side effect because of its potential effect on other people. If a guy's testes shrink, that's HIS business. If his BP or cholesterol are high, those are HIS business again. If he dies early again, it is his own actions resulting in his own demise.

I am not supporting the use of steroids in sport. Rather as some people erroneously conclude, I am asking people to consider where the line is for "not OK" and why. The first guy in the pics above was concerned about the record book. Without steroids that comparison is out the window. Comparing eras isn't out of the question because of steroids either. "Then" they did their things (e.g., greenies) versus more steroids more recently (and that isn't even true, steroids have been around in some sports for years). If you want to argue comparing eras... you would probably have to support everyone taking them now, to balance things out.

As for Bonds, 20 years after he leaves the game, there will be those that will remember how he got to where he did. Once that generation dies off, his memory will lose some of its baggage, the way Ruth has to all but those die hard baseball historians.

beatrice 11 years, 10 months ago

jay-71: I can't believe you are supporting the use of steroids in sport!

Okay, I know you aren't. I understood where you were headed with the string of questions -- you were altering the base of the original question in an attempt to give greater complexity to the issue. Perfectly understandable. I also thought anonymous went WAY over the line in his response and figured it wouldn't take long for you to get back here and set him straight.

On Bonds and Ruth: One big difference between Bonds and Ruth is that Ruth really was bigger than life in his own time, in part because he was a showman. He played to the crowd. Bonds acts like he hates baseball fans. Ruth may not have been loved by all, but he was loved by more than love Bonds. Not that I'm a die hard baseball historian, of course.

rayikeo 11 years, 10 months ago

Hell Yes, I care. Next thing you know they will be hooking up electrodes to thier testicles to make them run faster....

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

beatrice, thanks for posting that you understood my point. And, as you said, NO, I do not support the use of steroid in sport. In MY OPINION though, I think that some of the reasons against it (the comparison issue, for example) are moot points. There have to be better reasons (some of the health ones are valid, but who am I to say what you put in your body and by extension what you do to your body?). I think that a lot of the things that have been introduced into sport that are deemed legitimate, are also questionable.

Should a cyclist from 20 years ago be compared to a cyclist of today that has much better equipment? What about the MaxSight lenses mentioned in another story? What about body suits for runners and swimmers? Those are all used to gain a competitive edge without actually DOING anything (people seem to be fine if someone "works really hard" to gain an advantage).

Setting aside the health benefit issue (which is again, telling a person what he can do with his own body) the outcome to sport is really the same; competitive edge. To say that they (performance enhancers) are against the rules (and that is why using them is "wrong") relies on ones acceptance that they give an (unfair?) edge. No one would raise an issue about a player using lotion on the tip of his nose, because no competitive edge is perceived... competitive edge is a necessary, although not sufficient condition.

Ultimately my question is simple and extends the question asked: "which factors that lead to a competitive edge is OK with you?" I am not trying to convince people that athletes should take steroids; quite the opposite, in my opinion there are so many performance enhancements that are NOT the result of hard work on the part of the performer; why not rail against those?

sunflower_sue 11 years, 10 months ago

jayhawks71, I thought you stated that quite well.

In answer to your ?...equal training, equal equipment, equal genetic pool is what leads to a perfectly level playing field. Sports, as in life, are never "fair" but I applaud the athlete that gets to where they are by working hard. Plain and simple. Even sports that rely on judges are subjected to personal opinions. In so many sports where the "best" is only better by 1/10th of a point or 1/10th of a second...are they really the best, or did they just have a "better" day? I guess my answer is that I'm still all for the naked sports and everyone has to have the same equipment (HA!).

sunflower_sue 11 years, 10 months ago

Ceal, A doula? No. I had a hubby that let me crush his hand with every contraction (no small feat, mind you). I also had a Dr that told me if I wanted "natural" childbirth, I was to go squat in the corner...she was a hoot! I did manage 16 hours of induced labor w/out "performance inhancing drugs" but by then I was more than ready to accept a "competitive edge." Oops, I guess since mine was "induced" I was already given "performance inhancing drugs." :o$ Hope you enjoyed the T-Bones. They are a lot of fun.

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

Sue, then are you against the use of steroids? Taking steroids without doing anything doesn't lead to more powerful muscles. It facilitates the outcomes of a workout (either occurs more quickly, with less work, better results). If that is not ok, then what about chemicals such as creatine, which philosophically (although perhaps not biologically) has the same goal (to facilitate the outcomes of a workout.).

I think it is interesting how much we "value" hard work, but at the same time, we all value more efficient (aka easier) ways of doing work. Who is the better businessman, the farmer who toils for 14 hours in the field with donkey and plow or the farmer who uses advanced equipment to plow more field in less time? I think we would consider the plow and donkey as inefficient.

What is typical about human beings is that we are typically hypocritical. We want the athlete to do it "naturally" and through "hard work" but we value, in many other arenas, efficiency, which is getting a result with less effort, work, cost, pain, etc...

I am basically waxing philosophical here. I don't think there is THE answer, I just think it is fun to reflect on why we believe what we believe.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 10 months ago

Hmmmm.....Which farmer do I value more? I guess the one that is growing food for more people than himself. The one that grows more per acre? The one that works hard AND does well? That is a really tough call. I don't think I could answer that. I also don't think I can answer your ? about which "enhancements" are OK. A multivitamin? All I do know is that I don't want an athlete to take steroids. I just know that my gut tells me it's wrong. Nothing logical about it.

jayhawks71 11 years, 10 months ago

Regarding the farmers, I should have put the stipulation that they both produce the same amount, get the same price per bushel, etc (aka, the all other things being equal, which they never are, but for the sake of discussion). Honestly, if they produce the same amount and one does it in less time (more efficiently) I think it is a no brainer that he is the better farmer even though he technically "cheated" by using a performance enhancer.

Let's hypothesize that two male athletes have their levels of testosterone measured and one has a lower level than another. Should the one with the lower level be able to inject testosterone to bring his level to that of his competitor?

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