SIDELINE SLANTS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN JOE KLEINSASSER
When I was growing up and participated in sports, my parents encouraged me to do the best I could and let the chips fall where they may. Cheating wasn’t a viable option.

Apparently a lot of athletes today weren’t given that parental advice or they’ve chosen to ignore it.

The steroid scandal that has reared its ugly head in baseball reveals a deeper problem with professional and major college sports. After all, would athletes go to such extremes if not for the pursuit of fame and fortune?

A cynic might change the saying that something is as “American as baseball and apple pie” to “It’s as American as baseball and steroids.”

Wichita State University strength and conditioning coordinator Kerry Rosenboom has worked with more than 75 major league baseball players. Rosenboom says the perception used to be that only athletes who were trying to make it to the major leagues used steroids.

“But now we see that it’s some of the biggest stars in the game that are doing that, and so it really sets a bad example for all the young players in the game.

“Athletes must understand they can achieve the same goals without steroid use,” says Rosenboom. “If they remain consistent with their training, eat right and do things the correct way and get on a good program, it may take longer, but they will be able to achieve those gains and be a lot healthier for it.”

Athletes cheat because they believe they can get away with it and beat the system-that “rules are made to be broken.”

It appears as if all too many athletes have decided that the benefit of using performance-enhancing drugs outweighs the risk and the embarrassment of getting caught.

Of course if we’re honest, we’d acknowledge that cheating isn’t limited to professional or major college athletes. Who hasn’t shaved a shot or two off their golf scorecard? How many business people have shaved a few corners and looked the other way in order to help the bottom line?

How many people have cheated in college and professional sports, business, politics and religion? Few, if any of us, would be exempt from such a list.

If adults are so adept at cheating, is it any surprise that cheaters are getting younger? After all, we’re the so-called role models.

There already have been reports of high school students using performance-enhancing drugs. And, considering the slippery slope we’re on, don’t be surprised if illegal drugs are slipping into the middle-school level as well.

College and universities are regularly put on probation for breaking rules. The typical defense of those caught red-handed runs something along the lines of “Everybody is doing it. We just happened to get caught.” Or, “The rules are so complicated and hard to follow.” Or, “The rules need to be changed.”

Did you hear about the four Sacramento State defensive linemen who sprayed their uniforms with Pam, the nonstick cooking oil, in order to make it more difficult for opposing players to hold them?

Although it’s a clear violation of NCAA rules, the Big Sky Conference decided to reprimand, but not suspend, the players.

That prompted Phil Taylor of CNNSI.com to write, “Cheating is not only accepted in sports, it’s embraced. The idea of winning fair and square is as obsolete as the two-hand set shot. We’ve come to think of deceit as part of the competitive spirit, so that if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.

“Whenever a player is described as knowing the ‘tricks of the trade,’ it means he knows how to cheat, and more often than not, he’s admired for it.”

How long will it take for America to wake up?

Tommy Boone, professor at the College of St. Scholastica, says the message that every coach should promote is, “If you cheat, you don’t play on my team. If you want to be an athlete for lucrative corporate sponsorships and you are willing to do anything for the money, then, you don’t play on my team. If you don’t expect to play by the rules, you don’t play on my team.”

Frankly, I don’t see the situation getting better anytime soon.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying.

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