Drugs in Sports: No Outrage?

The Christian Science Monitor, December 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Drugs in Sports: No Outrage?


The three-martini lunch in America is a social relic. Smoking in most workplaces and restaurants is banned.

So when will the cultural shift that made these unsavory practices un-cool also spread to the world of sports - where doping allegations are tarnishing the reputations of both Olympic track stars and baseball greats?

This week the players' union for Major League Baseball is grappling with imposing tougher testing for steroids, a fallout of a San Francisco federal grand jury investigating BALCO, the Bay Area lab charged with distributing steroids to top athletes.

No question, baseball needs a more stringent testing regimen. But the issue of performance-enhancing drugs goes far beyond baseball, and even beyond the critical role of testing, which has evolved into a cat-and-mouse game of steroids-users trying to outsmart steroids- catchers.

What's needed is a shift in the kind of thinking that might convince a baseball player to build his home-run record on drug- enhanced hits, or a sprinter to run for the gold with drug assistance because of the perception that everyone is doing it.

The win-at-all-costs mindset reaches even to young athletes' parents, who call the hotline at the National Center for Drug Free Sport to ask which drugs will help their children get college athletic scholarships.

Deep forces are at work here, especially today's "quick-fix" attitude that promotes everything from Botox to diet pills to extreme makeovers. So, too, is the influence of big money, celebrity worship, and ever more exciting and risky entertainment.

These are gigantic ships to turn around in a society. …

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