What Do We Really Know About PEDS?
By Tyler Blint- Welsh
Reacting to impulses is never a prudent decision. So when the news broke about Alex Rodriguez and over a dozen other MLB players being linked to the “anti aging clinic” of Anthony Bosch, I did my best to avoid thinking about the possibility of dozens of other players, in various other professional sports doing things along the same lines. What if Kobe Bryant, recovering from a normally career threatening Achilles tendon injury, at a record breaking pace, is taking HGH to help fuel his return? What if the only reason Lebron James hasn’t had a significant injury yet is because he uses PEDs to help speed up the recovery of his fatigued muscles? What if Manny Pacquiao didn’t become the worlds first 8 division world champion by hours of blood, sweat,tears and protein shakes?
No way, I thought to myself. Biogenesis is an isolated case, I thought to myself. Then rumors started swirling about numerous NBA and NFL players also attending the Biogenesis clinic. (The reason these players can’t be named however, is because they are unrelated to the ongoing investigation involving the MLB, and the documents in which they are ostensibly named in are sealed from the public). Then Von Miller of the Denver Broncos was suspended 6 games for his PED use. Then Miguel Tejada was suspended 105 games for his PED use, which he claimed was a treatment for his ADHD. And save for Von Miller, Ryan Braun and Tejada, not a single one of the players recently suspended (Alex Rodriguez, Jordany Valdespin, Antonio Bastardo, Nelson Cruz, Everth Cabrera, Sergio Escalona, Jhonny Peralta, Jesus Montero, Francisco Cervelli, Cesar Puello, Fauntino De Los Santos, Jordan Norberto, and Fernando Martinez) have had a positive PED test in their careers. Ever.
What does this mean? Well in this case, it means that out of a small sample size of 16 professional athletes, 81% of them have been doing steroids, for some extended period over the course of their careers, without ever being caught by the tests that are specifically designed to catch such things. So naturally my thoughts began to wander to sports outside of baseball. For example, the 1985 Chicago Bears, who are widely regarded as the best defensive team in the history of the NFL, with heavy hitters such as Richard Dent, Refrigerator Perry and Otis Wilson, had only a single player weighing over 285 pounds. This in a time where players often smoked cigarettes, drank heavily, and paid little attention to their workout methods and appetites. Compare that to the 2012 Chicago Bears, who had 12 300+ pound players on their roster. This, in a time with multiple trainers and conditioning coaches, well worked appetites and a very low percentage of cigarette smokers and binge drinkers. As of 2010, there were 534 300+ pound NFL players. In 1980? Three. Has the human race evolved that much in such a short span? I don’t think so.
Until the most recent NFL lockout, the NFL Players Association vehemently opposed any proposal for HGH testing, citing flimsy reasons such as the fact that they think that taking out a blood sample in the middle of the season could weaken them to the point where it affects their performance. After the lockout, they finally worked out an HGH testing program, which as of today, August 20th, 2013, has yet to be implemented. The lockout ended July 25th, 2011. That means that two more years have passed with absolutely zero regulation on the use of Human Growth Hormone in the NFL, and us as fans are expected to believe Roger Goodell when he says that the NFL is doing everything possible to keep the game clean?
Richard Sherman, Seattle’s Pro Bowl cornerback, was suspended for four games prior to the 2012 NFL Playoffs. However, he appealed his suspension and won. Why? He contested that the collector of his urine sample improperly handled the sample, even though the chances of an improper handling having an effect on the sample large enough to cause a positive test are virtually non-existent. Ryan Braun, the 2011 MLB MVP won his appeal for the same exact reason. And now we see how that’s turned out. (Braun has been suspended for the remainder of the 2013 season for his connection to the Biogenesis clinic).
So, in summation, the league drug policies of two professional sports not only allow for numerous players to use PED’s over the course of their career without the remote possibility of being caught, but they also made very little, if any progress toward strengthening the stability and consistency of their suspension programs.
At least the NBA lays down the law, right? Wrong. Well, sort of. Currently, the NBA has a policy that allows for 4 random drug tests during the course of the season (October 1st to June 30th), as well as two random drug tests in the offseason (July 1st to October 1st). As an extra provision, the NBA has granted itself the right to act off of any tip offs it receives on a player and his alleged drug use, and force the player to take a drug test within 24hours of the league gaining knowledge of the situation. Except why would the NBA run the risk of taking some of the biggest stars in the world, off the floor? The NBA polices itself, and as a multi- billion-dollar business, has little incentive to hurt its product. Imagine Kobe Bryant, being suspended for 45 games due to a positive drug test? According to Henry Abbot, extracted from an interview with Daniel Coyle who is an expert of the sport of Cycling, and the rampant doping within it, he explains that a sport policing itself is “structurally tangled” saying that, “everybody [within cycling’s governing body] knows that if Lance Armstrong gets popped, they get much less in TV rights. They get much less in everything. It costs them a lot of money to have a major guy get popped.” And this is a theory that can be transferred to any major professional sport.
In 2005, the medical director of the NBA, Lloyd Baccus, M.D., testified in front of Congress about the state of the NBA/NBPA Anti- Drug Program. In his testimony he claimed that in the first six years of the Anti Drug Policy, 23 players tested positive for some sort of performance enhancing drug. His second claim was that of these 23 positive tests, he threw out 20 of them on “[his] own discretion”. How coincidental that a man employed by the NBA and its players absolved 87% of its players that tested positive for PED’s, right? (The three players who’s positive results were released?: Don MacLean, Matt Geiger and Soumalia Samaka. Never heard of them, I presume. Well that shouldn’t cost the league too much, should it?) Additionally, in the eight seasons since that testimony, only four other players have been punished for positive PED tests, meaning we don’t know how many were thrown out at the “discretion” of the league’s head medical examiner. Furthermore, WADA itself (World Anti-Doping Agency) concedes that there is a rather large “gap” that separates what the NBA does for testing, and what catches “sophisticated” cheaters. The NBA doesn’t seem to struggle with coming up with the means to fund such an upgrade to its anti drug program, but instead seem to struggle with coming up with the integrity to display the entire truth to its fans.
So, the casual fan is left to ponder who the hell it’s possible for Lebron to be 6’9’’, 265 pounds, and nimble as a gazelle. And wonder how Lebron’s body has been able to handle the massive workload that Erik Spoelstra has placed on him over the past three seasons. And wonder how Metta World Peace recovered enough from a torn meniscus, to play in an NBA 12 days after the injury, even when normal time is in excess of 6 weeks. Or how Kobe Bryant is already walking without crutches even though he’s not supposed to be doing so for another 8 weeks. Or why Russell Westbrook has never missed a regular season game, and why has Chris Paul not yet been able to make it through an entire NBA season.
There just simply isn’t an uneven playing field, and its true across all sports. Bud Selig, Roger Goodell and David Stern? Hypocrites. They claim to be doing whatever is necessary to protect the “integrity” of their respective games. But the only thing they seem to be protecting is the lining in each one of their owners’ wallets.
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