Steroid punishment not enough

High school-age use of steroids is at an all-time high at an estimated 6 percent to 11 percent of males.

A total of 4,256 hits and a career batting average of .303, who do these numbers belong to? None other than the great but controversial Pete Rose.

Rose was one of the all-time great hitters in baseball, but made a mistake by gambling on the sport. What was his punishment? A lifetime suspension and ban from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Last season, another baseball great, Rafael Palmeiro, made a bad mistake. But he didn’t bet on baseball; he legitimately cheated and was caught when he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug. What was his punishment? A suspension of only 10 days. Even worse than this lack of punishment is that within the next 10 years, there is a chance that Palmeiro, a cheater and someone less worthy of the hall of fame will enter it, while Rose never will have the chance. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig tried to apply more pressure to the players’ association to increase punishment for steroid use.

The other three major sports associations also have problems with their steroid policies. The NFL is by far the highest-praised of the four major sports with suspensions of four games, six games and one year for the first, second and third positive tests, respectively. But the NFL does not use blood testing. This can allow designer steroids – like those created by Victor Conte of Balco, the Bay Area Laboratory Cooperative Sports Nutrition Center, who has been in the news lately with connections to athletes like Barry Bonds, Marion Jones and Jason Giambi – to beat the steroid test. The two other major sports associations are also in a bad, if not worse, situation as Major League Baseball. The NBA, for example, only suspends first-time offenders for five games and the NHL does not even test for performance-enhancing drugs!

Steroid punishment needs to be stepped up to show other professional athletes that using them is unacceptable. Given the possible side effects of steroid use – high blood pressure, liver tumors, “roid rage,” depression and shrinking of testicles, just to name a few – steroid use must be put to a stop now, not only for the safety of these professional athletes and the legitimacy of the sports we love, but also for the future safety of children and adolescents who look up to these individuals.

Already, high school-age use of steroids is at an all-time high at an estimated 6 to 11 percent of high school-aged boys reported as having used steroids. Not only are the side effects mentioned above possible in adolescents, but even more problems can arise. Possible growth stunting may occur because the steroids can stunt growth plates. Also, an increase in severe injuries in high school athletes may be attributed to steroid use. This tainting of today’s youths and sports in general needs to be put to a stop before it gets out of control.

A possible solution supported by many is a policy similar to the one in place in Olympic competition – a policy that would extend to all major athletic associations. The World Anti-Doping Agency, which is in charge of drug testing in the Olympics, is widely praised for its tough stance on steroids and even tougher punishments. For example, testing includes blood and urine samples. Testing is also completely random and unannounced and the penalty for one offense is a two-year ban from competition. The commissioners of these leagues need to get together and accept a policy like this. Without tougher punishments in sports, there always will be a cloud of mysteries over these professional leagues and the legitimacy of the sports and athletes we know and love will be questioned forever.

Corey Jordin is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]