A student-athlete’s response to criticism

We hope poorly founded opinions are not representative of the general student body.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a student-athlete. Examples of both have been pointed out in recent editorials. Most of us do a good job representing the University, both on and off the field. However, I’ll be the first to admit that we do not always conduct ourselves in an appropriate manner. With this being said, it is still unacceptable to stereotype the athletics department, or specific athletic teams, for the conduct of a few individuals.

The most recent attack on student-athletes was made by Dr. BJ Anderson, a former employee of the athletics department. Dr. Anderson was a game day physician that was replaced in favor of physicians that could work more regularly with student-athletes. Apparently he still holds some hard feelings.

In his column, Dr. Anderson stated that “student-athletes’ health care reflects our nation’s overuse of antibiotics.” I could not agree more with the second part of this statement. However, I do have a problem with the first portion. Medical records are confidential. The only way Dr. Anderson could know about potential overuse is if he were the one writing the prescriptions. This brings up an interesting point.

Student-athletes cannot write prescriptions, nor can our athletic trainers. Only doctors can write prescriptions. It would seem as though Dr. Anderson is blaming student-athletes for something they have no control over. Dr. Anderson, if you want a change in American drug policy, talk to your colleagues; do not blame student-athletes.

Do student-athletes receive more medical attention than the average student? Absolutely. Is this extra attention unwarranted? Absolutely not. The stress student-athletes put on their bodies increases the chance of injury. Many sports such as wrestling, football, basketball and soccer involve close body contact which increases the risks of catching and spreading illness. And I have yet to mention that fact that water bottles are shared both at practice and on game day. My grandma never took Biology 1001, but even she could tell you sharing water bottles spreads germs.

Exercise has been known to enhance the immune system. However, according to a study published in the August 1995 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Dr. J. Duncan MacDougall and colleagues), the immune system is actually compromised after high intensity workouts, while the body repairs itself. Add this to the fact that as many as 220 student-athletes share the same ice baths and other training room accessories, and the chance of catching and spreading illness after working out increases.

I fail to see the connection between antibiotics and sexual assault, but Dr. Anderson makes the jump anyway. In doing so, he brings up the inexcusable actions of the Minnesota Vikings. Making an association between the Vikings and Gophers student-athletes makes about as much sense as associating Dave Holland (former drummer of Judas Priest and in jail for sexual assault) and percussionists in the University’s Marching Band. Dr. Anderson does bring up a sexual assault case from 1986. The actions of Mitch Lee are still not acceptable. However, this occurred 19 years ago; about a quarter of all student-athletes were not even born yet. If there is any truth to recent accusations of sexual assault, then something needs to be done about it. But making these claims against student-athletes in a poorly written letter to the editor is not the solution. These editorials are meant to tarnish the image of a group of people that work to represent the University in a positive manner.

Dr. Anderson is not the only person to criticize student-athletes. In the previous weeks, there have been several such columns. I realize that part of the reason for an editorial page is to express opinions and stir up controversy. But this can still be accomplished without telling blatant lies. Being a member of the Student Athlete Advisory Council, I have looked over recruiting procedure. And to the dismay of Abby Bar-Lev, it was never acceptable to provide prospective student-athletes with excessive entertainment including (but not limited to) alcohol, strippers and gambling. I’m not claiming that these activities have not occurred on past recruiting visits, but it is (and always was) against athletics department policy. Just like it is against University policy to plagiarize, but every year students get expelled for doing so.

As I have hinted through this editorial, student-athletes are not perfect. We mess up, just like everyone else. But because of our high-profile nature, the consequences of our mistakes are much more public. Most of us accept this. We just hope the biased, poorly founded editorials that have been recently printed are not representative of the general student population. Rather, we hope that Gophers, in general, are representing the University well and are a group to be proud of.

Ben Hanson is a University student-athlete and is on the Student Athlete Advisory Council Executive Council. Please send comments to [email protected].