PEDs are a part of sports entertainment
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When Marion Jones admitted that she had taken PEDs - performance enhancing drugs - during her breathtaking Olympics championship run, it broke my heart. I love Marion Jones. I believed in her and was proud of her accomplishments. I just didn't understand that she would need to cheat. There are many who feel the same as I when it comes to their favorite baseball players. To some fans, these players are their heroes.
The steroid era around the turn of the century was a rough time. Fans and analysts went on a roller coaster of emotions and opinions. We were shocked. We were angry. We felt betrayed. We were numb. We were overwhelmed, and at some point apathetic. It is still a complicated issue with many grey areas and more questions than answers.
As the list grows of professional athletes who have been exposed or who have admitted to taking some kind of performance enhancing drugs, the public has become more jaded on the subject. There is always a question about any athlete who seems to greatly improve their game in a short amount of time or immediately following an injury. There is always speculation about any athlete who becomes a superstar in the more suspect sports like baseball, track & field and cycling.
The fact that this year, for the first time in decades, that no one was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, shows that we still have some resentment towards those players who were connected with the steroids era scandals. On the flip side, many of us are under-reacting to the ruling handed down about famed cyclist Lance Armstrong and his supposedly proven use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
In some sports, the presence of PEDs is assumed and people have made their peace with it. In other sports, it is the highest sacrilege and fans are outraged to think they are involved.
If we look at professional sports from a purely entertainment perspective, it is easier to accept PEDs. T-Payne was a multi-platinum selling, multi-million dollar generating, Grammy winning artist whose career was made because of autotune, a machine that makes even the worst singer sound good. Hollywood is full of celebrities who are rich and famous because of how they look more than how well they can act, even if those looks are through the miracle of plastic surgery.
When I watched Marion Jones kick butt in the Olympics, I was fully entertained. I followed the home run derby between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and was completely captivated by it. I cheered when Lance Armstrong rode through the streets of Paris with his 7th yellow jersey. In each instance, I was entertained.
In each revelation and accusation of steroid use by these athletes, I was disappointed. And that is the root of why this Hall of Fame vote and the whole discussion on PEDs in sports is so murky. We love watching the results but we wish they were true results. I was thrilled by the accomplishments of these and other athletes because I was amazed at how they developed their natural talent through hard work and determination to be the best. It was inspiring to think that with effort and persistence, I too could achieve my goals.
So when you find out that your role model took short cuts and broke the rules it's like finding out there is no Santa Claus and the Great and Powerful Oz is just some sad guy behind a curtain.
We want our heroes to be larger than life. We want them to be superhuman and be able to achieve feats that seem impossible. We want them to fly and we are crushed when they crash. But we can't have it all. We can't expect them to be like gods when they are human beings, just like us.
When I watched the Olympics this past summer and I saw Gabrielle Douglas pull herself up from almost being out of contention to winning all around individual gold in gymnastics, I cried. I was just so impressed by how she was able to mentally pull herself together and find a way to tap into her talent to win.
Athletes will tell you that you can take all the PEDs you want, but if you don't have the base talent and the mental toughness they won't help you succeed. But there are reasons why PEDs are against the rules in every legitimate sport. We don't teach children when they are learning sports that if they want to be the best they have to take PEDs or cheat. We teach them to work hard, practice, play fair and give their best effort.
If we just want to be entertained by our sports figures then we need to let go of our qualms about PEDs. If someone wants to risk their life for a few more inches, points, miles, wins, then that's on them. I want my spectacle.
If we want to be inspired then we have to accept that our sports heroes are human. We have to show through our support, our attendance and our adulation that we enjoy what they can naturally do, not what they can pharmaceutically achieve.
- Mariel Blake writes a weekly column for The Daily News.