All the current news devoted to MLB players Roger Clemens and Alex Rodriquez, Tour de France riders Floyd Landis and (alleged drug user) Lance Armstrong, and rookie NFL player Brian Cushing, would seem to indicate that steroid and performance-enhancing drug usage is a more recent phenomena. At least that is what one might think based on the media attention given to these stories, especially when comparing it to what was readily available about high profile athletes of many decades past.
A misconception in its simplest form; the reality is that these substances have been around and in use for a long time. And the reasoning behind their use hasn't changed much either.
Substance is given to that argument in Robert Lipsyte's piece, An Athlete With No Illusions About Steroids (The New York Times), on recently deceased Olympic hammer throw champion Harold Connolly. In a personal, relaxed conversation over dinner and drinks (and a more clearheaded interview last year) with the former gold medalist, Robert says to Connolly, "It's all timing. If you'd been born later, taken steroids, you could have won a few more gold medals."
Connolly's response: "You kidding? I was using after 1960. We all were."
Lipsyte goes on to report that Connolly was not only using steroids after 1960 but that he was "against punitive testing", offered "drug advice" to his many athletic offspring in an effort to enhance their careers - even though his three-time Olympic wife sternly and consistently opposed drug use, and is quoted as saying that a large number of athletes in the 1968 Olympics "had so much scar tissue and so many puncture holes in their backsides that it was difficult to find a fresh spot to give them a new shot."
This, and the rationale behind "why" athletes used, is further supported by Connolly's statement:
"Most of the athletes I have known would do anything short of killing themselves to improve performance."
None of this sounds that much different than what we have going on today, does it??? They all (past and current athletes) seem to be using for the same reasons - winning (at any cost), fame, and $$$$, entirely external factors.
However, what I don't get, and something I probably never will get, is the complete lack of ethical standards choices like these represent.
And it is this lack of ethics that raise several questions for me.
If you have to cheat (in any form) and/or take substances that not only create an uneven playing field for competition in order to break records, win games, or attain the appearance of greatness, did you REALLY achieve any of these things? Did you really win anything?
How does one take pride and self-satisfaction in an apparent accomplishment like this? Is it truly possible?
When all is said and done, and they are ready to close the book on your career, what will you have left for others? Did the indelible mark you left on the game or sport you played, the one you loved so much as a kid, represent true and honest competition? Was it a beneficial mark on the game, something for others to aspire to?
Or did you leave behind the legacy of a cheater, one who didn't truly "win" or achieve anything, one who represented a thought process that "takes" away from you much more than it gives?