Juicing athletes – does it matter?

Performance-enhancing drugs and anabolic steroids appear to be as much a part of sports today as the equipment used to play them.

Every year, more and more athletes admit to using steroids, usually with little surprise to the fans. When Manny and A-Rod were caught, nobody really cared.

Which raises an interesting question: should we, as fans, actually care about players using these performance-enhancing drugs?

I say that, more than ever, we most definitely should. I have heard the arguments that “everyone is doing it” or that “if we want to see the best athletes out there, we can’t oppose steroids.” But that is exactly why we should care.

We want to see the best athletes playing at the professional and collegiate levels, not whoever is able to get their hands on more drugs at a younger age so that they can boost their size.

We want to see those players who have raw talent or who stay at the stadium after practice honing their skills. By simply turning our head the other way or not rising up in outrage when a major star is exposed we, as fans, are allowing ourselves to be subjected to lesser athletes.

This is why the Olympics do extensive drug testing. This is why the entire Laurier football team was subjected to testing last week. It’s so that the highest levels of competition are reserved for the true athletes.

Top five steroid scandals

5. Rafael Palmeiro

One of the most infamous scandals in baseball history centred on Palmeiro, who brought a lot of the shame upon himself. After being accused in Jose Canseco’s tell-all book, Palmeiro eventually wound up in front of the United States Congress, where he vehemently denied ever taking steroids. After testing positive months later, he stated that he ingested them by accident. Uh-huh.

4. Floyd Landis

Perhaps the only place where doping exists on the same playing field with Major League Baseball is the Tour de France. Landis was originally heralded as the champion of the 2006 Tour, but tested positive for synthetic testosterone. He then whipped up a batch of excuses, perhaps most famously claiming that the testosterone may have come from his heavy consumption of whiskey. The court upheld its decision, making Landis the first Tour winner in over 100 years to be stripped of his championship.

3. Waterloo Warriors

Prior to last year, the thought that a Canadian university football team could be included in this list would be laughable. However, when the Warriors were tested at the outset of the 2009 season after accusations that a teammate was trafficking steroids, nine players were revealed to have broken the doping rules. This led to a suspension of the entire UW football program, and is the biggest steroids scandal in North American collegiate sports history.

2. Barry Bonds

Back to baseball now. Bonds is considered one of the greatest hitters to ever play the game – holding the record for most home-runs in a single season and a career having more homers than both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron. Bonds was lovable, he was involved in the San Francisco community and he was a sports hero for kids to look up to. Then, in 2007, he was accused of steroid use and his baseball legacy crumbled. Fans began calling for asterisks beside his name in the record book, and overnight his major league career was over.

1. Ben Johnson

The 1988 Olympics in Seoul will forever go down as one of the worst for Canadians, almost exclusively because of one race. The stage was set for a showdown between two rivals: Johnson, a Canadian, and Carl Lewis of the United States. The two hated one another; it was a battle for North American pride between two of the greatest sprinters to have ever raced. Johnson infamously won that race, breaking his own world record at 9.79 seconds, sending Canada into the throes of joy. Just two days later, Johnson was stripped of both his gold medal and world record as he failed the IOC’s drug testing. To this day, it can still be regarded as one of the greatest defeats in Canadian Olympic history.

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