The Invisible Victim

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Mitchell report talked about athletes who doped, the fans who were cheated and the sport that was sullied, but it neglected the faceless victims of drug abuse, number 41 and 54.

The victim of the drunk driver is the person in the other car. The convenience store clerk is robbed by the crack user. Marion Jones uses performance enhancing drugs but her victim is invisible. While her medals have been reclaimed by the IOC, the real victim is the runner who came fourth at the US Olympic trails. Her dream of representing the US was lost because of the uneven playing field caused by Jones’ cheating.

Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were elite athletes before their use of drugs, but their Hall of Fame credentials may have been enhanced and their careers prolonged because of their alleged use. Their victims are down the pecking order in the locker room. The subs on the bench get moved down one notch and the last guy loses out. Only 40 players make a major league roster, only 53 make an NFL team. Numbers 41 and 54 don’t get hometown parades, pension plans and endorsement deals.

History will decide whether androstenedione or human growth hormone can make you hit a curve ball or throw a fastball faster. But science says that the body can be pushed just a little more with “help”, training can be more aggressive and injury time can be shortened.

Use of steroids in high schools and colleges may mirror the change in ethical behavior in the classroom. Cheating on exams and assignments remain the short cut to a better college, grad school or job. The athlete’s ability to jump start injury rehab or maximize training is no different.

It isn’t important whether the Mitchell 85 represents all the players using performance enhancing drugs. It depends upon the locker room perception whether these were the only ones stupid enough to be caught. If high school and college athlete think they can’t compete or rise to the next level without “help”, then the drug culture will continue. The cure is in the locker next door. When the guy across the line is perceived clean and when the trainers in the gym decide that the rules are meant to be followed, then a new era in sport begin.

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