ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
It’s none of your business, but I’ll address the issue up front and set the record straight. I’ve never used steroids. One glance at my less than formidable physique will tell you that.
Besides, there’s no evidence that using steroids helps sports columnists write better. There is evidence that using steroids can help professional athletes perform better.
More than a few eyebrows were raised when former National League Most Valuable Player Ken Caminiti admitted he used steroids. He also estimated that about half of all Major League players use steroids.
Jose Canseco believes that as many as 85 percent of Major Leaguers took muscle-enhancing drugs when he played pro baseball.
I’m not a steroids expert. In fact, I wouldn’t know what they look like if they were right in front of me. However, I know someone who is very knowledgeable and understands the seriousness of performance-enhancing drugs.
Wichita State University strength and conditioning coordinator Kerry Rosenbloom has worked with about 45 athletes who have played Major League Baseball. Based on conversations with these players, Rosenbloom says the number of athletes using steroids is probably exaggerated. However, he says it’s conceivable that 10-15 percent of the position players in the Major Leagues are using or experimenting with steroids.
Rosenbloom is quick to point out that using steroids won’t suddenly transform Joe Average into a Major League Baseball player. But it can help those who already possess the athletic ability to play at the highest level of baseball.
While he opposes athletes using steroids, Rosenbloom acknowledges that they can improve performance. Steroids are popular, he says, because it is a quick fix that “definitely does aid performance and increase power potential and running speed.”
Therein lies the problem. Steroids are a quick fix and they work. If that isn’t the American way, what is? How many people cut corners in business to get ahead? How many students plagiarize papers for a better grade? How many people try to lose weight quickly using questionable weight-reduction programs? How many people are swindled because of hucksters selling a get-rich-quick scheme?
This country’s foundation may have been built on sweat and hard work, but many Americans today are trying to replace hard work with compromises and short cuts.
But-and there’s always a but- when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs, some significant risks for athletes using steroids do exist.
Rosenbloom says athletes take them at their own risk.
The use of steroids can result in liver problems and other health problems. Rosenbloom says the biggest problem in sports for athletes on steroids is muscle pulls-and a lot of time on the disabled list due to different injuries related to steroid use.
“People get on steroids thinking they are enhancing their career, but in likelihood they are shortening the length of their career due to the injuries.”
Rosenbloom says athletes who stay on a consistent weight-training program can get the same results as those who use steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. But it takes a lot of hard work and time spent in the weight room.
Some baseball players are willing to risk their long-term health for a temporary gain. It’s a problem that Major League Baseball needs to address.
It’s not a level playing field. It gives some players an unfair advantage, it’s illegal in most circumstances, and it’s not healthy.
One unfortunate aspect of the steroid controversy, according to Rosenbloom, is that a lot of athletes who have worked hard and put a lot of time in the weight room are getting scrutinized, and people are asking, “Are they on steroids or is it hard work?”
Rosenbloom says, “A lot of people are getting maligned for something they did not do.”
While the NBA, NFL, NCAA and Olympics have random drug testing, Major League Baseball does not. According to a USA Today survey, 79 percent of Major League players would agree to independent testing for steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs.
But, as we know, talk is cheap. Actions speak louder than words.
So far, Major League Baseball has stuck its collective head in the sand, hoping the problem will go away.
That isn’t the answer.