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One Radical Opinion

by "Radical" Russ Belville
Sunday, December 5, 2004

"Radical" Russ Belville was born on the first day of the Tet Offensive of the Vietnam War in the town of Nampa in the "red" state of Idaho, where any opinion to the left of Reagan gets you labeled as "radical". He currently resides in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon (a.k.a. "Little Beirut") where he works in Information Technology. In his spare time, he enjoys writing about current events, playing the six-string bass guitar, and volunteering for liberal political causes. You can contact him via e-mail at letters 'at' radicalruss.net.

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Let me take a moment to reflect on an issue of vital importance to our society – steroid abuse in major league professional sports.

Yeah, I know, shouldn't I write about something more meaningful, like the fact that more American soldiers died in Iraq this last month than in any other month of the war, or that the American death toll has risen in five of the last six months (it went down in the month before the election, hmm, imagine that).

But Barry Bonds did steroids! The sacrosanct record of 755 home runs in a career is in danger of being broken by a man who cheated. I've just got to write something about that.

Maybe I should be more concerned about the appointment to Attorney General of a man who recently advised the President that the Geneva Conventions were quaint anachronisms. The top cop in the nation is a man who poked through decades of international law and custom searching for loopholes to allow for torture of prisoners.

But Marion Jones may have been injecting herself with steroids! All of her Olympic glory may have been manufactured in a laboratory. This is definitely something I've got to address.

Oh, what about the recent election in Ukraine, where the party of the incumbent was obviously engaging in electoral fraud and voter suppression. A former Soviet republic, where powerful political interests from Moscow hope to subvert the will of the people. People in the hundreds of thousands marching in the snowy streets behind their popular pro-democracy leader, shutting down the government, forcing an official declaration of fraud, and emerging victorious in their demand for a new, free, and fair election. (Meanwhile, there was a sale at the Target in Cleveland and hundreds of shoppers waited out in the cold to be the first to purchase the hottest toys. Oh, and apparently there's some talk on MSNBC and some lawsuits about election problems in Ohio, and nobody gives a hoot.)

Nope, enough of this life-or-death, red-state-vs.-blue-state, rise-of-the-corporate-one-world-order writing for today. It's time to delve headlong into a serious problem for the 0.001% of our population who are gifted multi-millionaire professional athletes.

There's this case going on about a laboratory in the San Francisco area that was making designer steroids for professional athletes. These steroids were special because they were impossible to detect on the standard tests. It's rumored that the stars of professional and Olympic sports were hopped up on the 'roids when they performed.

I guess the idea is that the steroids give those athletes an unfair advantage over the other world-class athletes that don't take them. Well, what are the rest of them waiting for? If you want to beat the best, you've got to train like the best.

If you ask me, they're not taking enough steroids. Let's just vanquish the notion that taking steroids is somehow cheating. No steroid in the world is going to give you or me the ability to hit a Randy Johnson fastball. We could inject steroid and amphetamine cocktails for the next two years and never catch Marion Jones in a footrace. All these steroids do is enhance the hard work and talent these athletes already possess.

OK, so the steroids are harmful to your health. Boo-hoo. So is running headfirst into a linebacker, spinning around on the uneven parallel bars, or letting a pitcher throw something small, round, and hard at 95 MPH near your body. Sports are dangerous, so we give the athletes padding and protective rules. Let's do the same for steroids. Regulate them and make them safer, put the athletes under the care of a doctor, but geez, let's let 'em take some real risks for our entertainment and their enrichment.

Besides, it's not like we're seriously going to stop it. Today it's designer steroids that are virtually undetectable. Tomorrow it is going to be genetic manipulation and programming that will be impossible to detect. No one will know whether the future eight-foot-tall, 400-pound NBA center is a freak of nature or a wonder of science. Furthermore, why should we care? It will be so fun watching FrankenShaq play.

Some of sport's purists will complain that the steroid-freaks of today make a mockery of the accomplishments and records of the "clean" athletes of yesteryear. So what? Do you think that if there were steroids in those days that some athletes wouldn't have also abused them? There's many things athletes didn't have back then – Nautilus equipment, sports medicine, arthroscopic knee surgery, nutritional supplements, scientific training regimens, and so on. Was Hank Aaron a cheater because he took care of his body, unlike the man whose record he broke, Babe Ruth, who was a glutton for food, sex, and alcohol? Is Emmitt Smith a cheater because he took advantage of modern training, equipment, and surgical techniques that didn't exist in Walter Payton's era?

I understand that there are some serious concerns about the health effects of steroids. I also understand that what happens in the pro leagues affects what kids in high schools and colleges do. Still, no one forces kids to take up the highly risky proposition of professional athletics. Steroids or not, it's a nearly impossible business in which to succeed. If kids don't want to take those risks, maybe they should take up writing.

I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the Professional Steroids Leagues. I want to see the 500-pound NFL lineman. I want to see an eight-second 100-meter dash. I want to see a 2000-pound bench press. Maybe this is where the XFL made their mistake; they should have been the no-drug-testing league. Maybe that's the solution – we mandate serious restrictions on steroids in the modern professional leagues, but we also create new no-steroids-barred leagues. Purists can enjoy completely clean athletes competing fairly with the accomplishments of yesteryear, while the rest of us can watch SuperKobe leap over FrankenShaq from the top of the key for a spectacular dunk on the fifteen-foot rim.