10 Questions with Kevin Blackistone
4. Nuances of Steroids
Posted On 05.17, 2013

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RCS: We also want to approach the steroid question from another direction. In a column titled "Rethinking Steroids," Jeff Neuman of RealClearSports recently wrote that there is an hysteria surrounding steroids that affects the way we talk about them. "It is difficult to discuss steroids rationally, because they were banned so quickly and totally that scientific research became impossible. After fifty years of mostly illicit use, however, we know much more about them than we did when their cartoonish image was developed."

Is it possible that the word "steroids" itself is such emotionally-loaded term that we aren't able to discuss the nuances of the entire issue?

Blackistone: Well, I think we talk about steroids in sports in a very detached manner. We talk about their use as being banned because they can artificially enhance an athlete's performance and therefore cheat opponents and the game. What we forget, in part because the feds haven't acted, is that possessing and using steroids without a doctor's orders is against the law.

We forget that steroids are meant to heal those who are hurt and, more important, to help those who are suffering through life - and possibly headed to a premature demise - live more pain-free, and live longer. It is the height of narcissism for an athlete to siphon those drugs just so they can recover quicker from injury or have longer careers. I think back to the story about guys who dealt these drugs to athletes obtaining them by standing outside pharmacies they know carry them and buying them from patients as they leave the door. That's the other side of steroid abuse in athletics.

RCS: Neuman also wrote, "It's not as though we're a society opposed to enhancing performance. You can't watch a sporting event for more than a few minutes without seeing ads for a very specific kind of performance enhancer. We use Rogaine for our thinning hair, Prozac for depression, Xanax for anxiety, Prilosec for heartburn, Lamisil for toenail fungus, Viagra for fun, Botox for wrinkles."

But why do we criticize athletes for taking drugs that make them better at their jobs?

Blackistone: I do think that we in the media are more outraged by steroids abuse in sports than the general public, but that's our job, too, to ferret out wrongdoing. And banned and illegal drugs are wrong in sports no matter the advertising to the general public.

There is, I think, an expectation and a desire that some sort of purity exists in sports, that what we are seeing is fair and square. The ancient Greeks competed at sports to honor the gods. I know the Chris Rock joke about all of us opting to take a pill if it would make us better at our job. What he didn't pose was whether we'd do so if it was illegal or all of us agreed doing so was unfair. I'm not attracted to artificially supped-up athletes. I want to see competition between the best athletes, not pharmacists who can produce the best and the most Tony Mandarich's.

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