- Created on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 19:31
- Hits: 310
By JUSTIN REID
Despite major sports’ governing bodies introducing measures combating doping and drug abuse, athletes are still being busted at an incredible rate.
Since July, track and field sprinter Tyson Gay, Major League Baseball (MLB) player Ryan Braun, and National Basketball Association (NBA) player Lamar Odom have all come under scrutiny for their involvement with performance enhancing or recreational drugs. Even as this article was developing, a small ticker came across ESPN to announce the NBA’s current Sixth Man of the Year Award winner J.R. Smith, of the New York Knicks, has been suspended five games without pay for violating the league’s anti-drug program.
Drug use in sports is not a new phenomenon, however, the prevalence of widespread drug use among sport’s elite is alarming.
While wrong at any level of competition, it is no longer the rookies looking for an upper hand to make an impact in their first season competing at the professional level. It’s not the benchwarmers relieving the pain of not being considered a superstar with a few recreational drugs after a game. It’s not even the aging veterans looking to add just a few more precious stat lines to a career approaching its conclusion.
As with Smith, who just re-signed with the Knicks in July for $18 million over three years, these are men at the top of their professions, leading spectators to question why such naturally gifted athletes are choosing to take performance enhancing drugs or risk fledging careers for a short recreational drug high.
“For athletes, I don’t think it is fair to have an advantage with performance enhancing drugs and recreational drugs are just bad. They kill people, and cause you to act differently,” says Alyssa Potter, 24, enrolled in the Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship program.
To put it in perspective, these are not athletes who just reached their potential in the sports in which they competed. They excelled, overachieved and gained accolades before it all came crashing down.
Of the three men mentioned here, Gay is a former four-time U.S. champion in the 100-metre as well as the 2007 IAAF World Athlete of the Year, Braun took the title of the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011 and was named to the 2012 all-star team, while Odom can claim two NBA championship rings to his name. Like Smith, he is a previous recipient of the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, the first Laker to ever do so.
Also, when exploring the issue of drugs in sports the conversation will quite consistently turn to two gentlemen who ruled their sports unchallenged until drug scandals put permanent asterisks beside their accomplishments: baseball’s Alex Rodriguez and Tour de France rider Lance Armstrong.
Most sports fans will be able to quickly identify Odom or Braun, those less inclined to brew over Sports Center before their daily commute are often still able to easily identify, and conjure up an opinion on, Rodriguez and Armstrong. While the other names are big in the sports arena, and Odom has even enjoyed a stint as a reality television star, the difference between those names and Rodriguez and Armstrong is the way the latter two transcended their sports, becoming heroes to a passionate audience along the way, which makes their drastic falls from grace all the more painful, and the hatred all the more vitriolic, for fans.
Rodriguez, who would have been a guaranteed first ballot hall of famer, became a symbol to the Hispanic community through his incredible playing ability and a celebrity using his good looks and charming smile to gain endorsement after endorsement and woo actresses such as Cameron Diaz. Armstrong, just as charming, became a symbol of overcoming adversity through his personal fight with cancer as well as becoming the face of the incredibly successful “Live Strong” campaign to fund cancer research.
Before Rodriguez was popped multiple times for steroids, and Armstrong finally admitted in an interview with Oprah to using performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career, both men probably could have opened their own halls of fames. Now their legacies will remain forever tarnished, and two incredible athletes, with or without the assistance of drugs, will never know what could have been if they had chosen to play the game fairly.
Fortunately, Niagara College strictly forbids the use of any illegal substances on college property for all students, athletes included, as well as following the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA)-Statement on Use of Banned Substances by varsity athletes, which also forbids the use of performance enhancing or recreational drugs in athletics.
Police Foundations student, Keith Thompson, 26, of Thorold, says he agrees with the idea of testing college athletes because it will make them less likely to abuse drugs in the future, whether or not they continue in sports.
Preventing drug abuse in sports is an impossible task. It will take much more than a few slaps on the wrist or losing a sliver of what are million-dollar salaries to convince athletes to adhere to the message and for this dangerous trend to end.