Steroids are the new scapegoat; people are willing to blame steroid use for just about every possible adverse outcome experienced by anyone who has been a user.

Steroids are quite likely bad for users and steroid use can most-definitely be considered cheating for those involved in sports. The public debate over steroid use has been heated and emotional. The media, possibly because they feel guilty that they ignored this obvious problem for the better part of 4 decades, seems to want to make up for lost time by over-hyping every steroid-related story that hits the news wires.

Despite this new-found interest in covering steroids-in-sports stories, the media hasn’t gotten much better at reporting the facts. Misinformation still rules the day with regard to what these substances do, can do, might do, etc. The hyperventilating aside, there isn’t all that much detailed science to tell us how bad steroids are.

The difference between steroid use and steroid abuse is vast and to discuss the effects of these drugs without making a distinction between the two groups is to give in to the hysteria. The data doesn’t provide a picture of the physical damage done by steroid use. We certainly don’t have any meaningful data to tell us steroid use leads to suicide or any catastrophic psychological disorders.

We have plenty of anecdotal evidence that steroids are bad, but there are anecdotal stories that show the opposite. That’s the problem with anecdotal evidence, my story can trump your story. Do a Google search and see how many actual studies you can find that give you a concrete picture about the physiological and psychological effects of steroids. My position isn’t that steroid abuse doesn’t cause damage or doesn’t/cannot contribute to early death.

Steroid use and abuse – and the behaviors and other decisions associated with its use – doesn’t occur in a vacuum. The scenario that we’ve been fed is BS, the modern day version of Adam eating the forbidden apple; the choirboy athlete gets a taste of the demon steroid and turns bad immediately. Nonsense. Steroid use is evidence of a screwed up decision making process.

The popular narrative that steroids are the Bogeyman that causes all other problems resonates partly because people don’t want to think their kid can make a series of horribly bad choices that have disastrous, catastrophic results. Also, too many parents don’t want to believe that they are in any way – big or small – responsible for the bad decisions made by their kids.

I am a parent of three young boys who play sports, have coached thousands of kids over the past 20 years and am very concerned about this issue. I know if my sons or one of my players turned to steroids, or other illegal performance-enhancing drugs, I would assume a part of the blame. Frankly, if my sons ever turn to steroids or other drugs I will have totally failed them as a father. How many people are willing to take this responsibility?

Unfortunately, over the past three decades parents have been looking for some family-external reasons to explain their kids’ bad behavior (By the way, it is not politically correct to tell kids they behave badly. Too judgmental.). Call it the,”Not-My-Kid” syndrome.

Recently Brent Musburger – legendary sports journalist and broadcaster – told a group of journalism students that he thought steroids might be able to be used by athletes – effectively and safely – under the supervision of qualified medical personnel. Cue the obligatory hue and cry. While Musburger’s comments can be criticized, it’s not for his position that steroids could be used by athletes under a doctor’s care.

Actually, it’s quite clear that athletes have been successfully using steroids, both with and without doctors’ help, for years, and Uncle Brent can be taken to task for not recognizing the obvious. Maybe he was afraid to go all out and say that many athletes have been successfully using steroids for years and now it might be time to level the playing field for everyone. Give everyone equal access so they can get equal benefits.

Exponentially more athletes are getting away with PED use than have gotten busted. Do you really think Brian Cushing and Shawne Merriman are the only linebackers in the NFL who have used? Do you really think all those who stood on the podium during the last Olympics were clean? What Musburger proposed – and it will never, ever in a gazillion years happen – is to allow medical professionals to determine whether steroids should be used.

He said, “Let’s go find out. What do the doctors actually think about anabolic steroids and their use by athletes.” That’s a better and more honest suggestion than most of the waste-of-time drug screening/prevention programs we’ve had to listen to over the years.

Any time a kid dies it’s a tragedy. And suicide must be unfathomably worse for a parent to endure. But people who want to say steroid use causes suicide are ignoring the reality, and the dynamic, of how and why kids make decisions in general, and specifically bad decisions.

Another problem is that kids are allowed and encouraged to idolize athletes. It would be ludicrous for someone to make the point that their son, who wanted to be a coach, became a depressed, beer-swilling drunk who crashed his car because Mike Ditka, Jim Mora, Dennis Greene and Brian Billick do Coors Light commercials. And yet we accept this line in the steroid use argument.

Using steroids is both a selfish and self-destructive decision. Selfish because your self interests come before everything else. Self-destructive because the position that you can accomplish your goals based on your own hard work is abandoned; this aspect is far more insidious. Athletes have gone to great lengths to hide and deny their steroid use rather than promote, defend or even justify it for precisely this reason.

Steroid use is antithetical to the goals of competition and sport. The damage done by the decision to use steroids occurs immediately and is likely to be just as much of a problem, and harder to overcome, as any possible physical or emotional damage from the drugs themselves.


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