Rose was asked the following question by ESPN the Magazine, "If 1 equals 'What are PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs)'? and 10 equals 'Everybody's Juicing'...How big of an issue is illegal enhancing in your sport?"
In response, Rose said, "Seven. It's huge, and I think we need a level playing field, where nobody has that advantage over the next person."
[UPDATE: Rose released a statement, saying he "clearly misunderstood what was asked," adding: "But, let me be clear, I do not believe there is a performance-enhancing drug problem in the NBA." (K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune); ESPN released a statement standing by the published quote on Monday.]
Unfortunately, the IBT post assumes steroids, but as far as I know, this isn't specified by Rose as an abused PED. Anything from human growth hormone to amphetamines to overdoses of natural supplements -- such as DHEA -- can be used to enhance the short-term performance of an athlete. Steve Kerr discussed this at the 2010 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference (Henry Abbott, TrueHoop).
Either way, this is huge and the polarizing response of LeBron James to clearly say in the ESPN article that steroids, specifically, are "something in the NBA that hasn't been done" and would be "crazy" has to raise eyebrows. That said, James isn't the best communicator, so his absolutism could have been absurdly reactionary.
[UPDATE: Rose said to reporters before Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals: "That's something I didn't say. I don't know where he got it from. That's why I released the statement to clarify things. I definitely wouldn't say that. I guess he misunderstood at the time. There's definitely not a drug problem in the NBA. If there was, we get tested four times, so it would definitely show up. You definitely don't want to go through this. But things like this happen. I clarified things. It's in the past now."]
Rashard Lewis, O.J. Mayo, and Darius Miles were suspended in recent years after testing positive for PEDs. The NBA is a harsh drug testing league, but no one can say with a straight face that athletes don't abuse painkillers from Vicodin to marijuana to OxyContin and pass tests due to masking agents and detox methods.
Personally, I accept that the violent government prohibition of drugs is a gross violation of the objective -- and constitutional -- inalienable rights to life, liberty, and property; and have never cared about PEDs in baseball. When the MLB finally banned them, it was a private association setting a regulation for competition within its own association and those violations ought to carry negative in-house consequences; the rest is for personal ethics and barstool conversations.
Football, boxing, and hockey are different in that the physicality in the nature of those games so highly increase the risk to humans' quality of life that the use of PEDs are an overwhelming safety violation. That risk to people's health shouldn't be compromised against their will under a sound mind. The use of PEDs in these sports are definitely a criminal issue because of the tacit, reckless disregard for the health of others.
Ted Williams' secret to being a great power hitter was that he always sought methods to make his bat lighter without (a) getting heavier or (b) decreasing the size of his bat's sweet spot -- the barrel. A fundamental law of physics is that mass and acceleration play equal roles in the generation of force.
Basketball doesn't carry the same physicality as those other contact sports, but it is a game of acceleration played on unforgiving hardwood. The drugs that make athletes faster can be as dangerous as the ones that make them bigger.
EDIT: Such a loaded topic, I'd expect, wouldn't allow for loose quoting. If Rose was mis-quoted, he and his management team should know better than to not review all of his quotes on this as a condition to discussing the topic at all. If he was being honest, it would be expected for the players' union t immediately play damage control -- first by getting Rose to retract, as it'd be more credible than a stand-alone union statement.