Archive for Thursday, July 6, 2006

The Fly Route

July 6, 2006

The Jason Grimsley-human growth hormone case of last month and the Tour de France doping scandal of last week finally proved to me that we've been handling the ever-larger steroid and doping problem all wrong.

The time where we believed every athlete has come and gone, as has the time when we only believe our favorites. Now is the time for us to cast the beliefs in our sports icons aside and instead of grilling liars in front of judges, ask ourselves two key questions.

First, who among us can say we wouldn't make the same decision?

Second, who cares?

Jason Grimsley went from being a borderline major league baseball player to being a journeyman reliever who at least always had a job. While I'm sure he got plenty of joy out of pitching in front of 50 people every night at Kauffman Stadium when he was with the Royals, something tells me it was the $9 million Grimsley collected through the later part of his career that sent the pitcher in search of chemical help.

That's some serious money, enough in fact to take care of Grimsley's kids and maybe even their kids.

Sure greed tells us all we want $9 million -- and I'm sure Grimsley didn't put every drop into his kids' college fund -- but given the opportunity to set your family up like that, who can honestly say they'd turn the other way?

It's a little bit of a different story for the Tour de France cyclists. The racers that came in second, third and fourth behind Lance Armstrong last year all were booted from this year's competition for doping.

Now that alone isn't proof that Armstrong used drugs. The French have tried harder at proving Armstrong was doping than they ever tried at (insert World War II joke here).

Still, the strongest evidence I've seen indicting Armstrong is this latest allegation about the rest of the world's best riders.

So maybe Armstrong doped. This is where I ask "who cares?"

I've thought for too long that steroids and the like send a terrible message to today's aspiring athletes -- success, fame and its riches can be had by cutting corners.

But is it cutting corners when everyone's doing it?

It would be an incredibly impressive feat to beat a field of doping cyclists while riding clean, but is it really that much less impressive to beat them while everyone is doping?

I don't see why. How's it cheating if everyone's cheating?

There's only two ways to get steroids out of sports.

The first is to make infallible tests and test everyone.

That won't work because someone will always spend more than the testers and find a way to slip past.

The second way is to paint the use of steroids as so shameful that no athletes will be able to look himself in the mirror after shooting up.

That won't work either, though. It already hasn't. There's no worse label in sports right now than that of "user." There are still plenty of people willing to do it, however.

It will never stop bothering me that steroids are so engrained in sports, but I'm done hating everyone caught cheating.

It's time we all realize that no matter what we think of steroids, to so many faced with a "yes" or "no" decision, the drugs are little more than another tool.

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