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ISSUE 118 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/22/2004

Steroids: Wrong, but understandable

By Ryan Maus
Sports Editor

Friday, October 22, 2004

Matt, I have to agree with many of the points that you bring up. There is absolutely no doubt that unnatural performance enhancing substances are detrimental to the health of those who use them. Caminiti, who admitted to using steroids throughout his career, recently passed away. BALCO (Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative), a San Francisco-based nutritional supplement lab that is under investigation by the federal government, has been linked to Giants superstar Barry Bonds.

Why then, if there is so much evidence outlining the perils of steroid use, are so many professional athletes associated with them? The answer to that question lies within the spirit of American capitalism.

Consider the following hypothetical situation. You are a minor league baseball player who has played three seasons at the triple-A level. While your skills seem to have hit their ceiling, you see dozens of younger players pass you by on their way to fame and (most importantly) fortune in the major leagues. While you are struggling along at $3,000 a month, the minimum major league salary is $50,000 monthly. Playing major league baseball is your lifes dream; its the reason you didnt go to college, the reason you have spent the last seven years of your life riding busses around the country for little pay.

Then, an opportunity presents itself. This is something that can give you an extra advantage, something that will finally allow you to fulfill your dreams (and make excellent money in the process). You know there are health risks involved, but you decide it is worth the risk. Designer steroids are almost undetectable, they say. Youll never get caught. Would you pass on this one chance to fulfill your dream?

Steroids will not magically transform a marginal athlete into a major leaguer. When combined with intense training, however, they can give an give a highly-skilled athlete the extra strength needed to reach the next level.

Caminiti, who is the only major professional athlete ever to publicly admit to steroid use, is the perfect example. Prior to his 1996 MVP season, Caminiti was a solid-but-unspectacular third baseman, averaging about 20 home runs and 80 RBI a season. In 1996, he suddenly hit 40 home runs, drove in 130 baserunners, and hit .326, which was 50 points above his career average. Steroids cant make the player, but they can take that player to a previously unreachable level of performance.

Please be aware that I am not condoning the use of steroids or any other performance-enhancing drugs. I firmly believe they are wrong and immoral in every possible sense. What I am saying is that I can empathize somewhat with those athletes who do use them. In todays sporting landscape, where competition is incredibly fierce, athletes are looking for every possible advantage they can gain on their opponents. If steroid use was the only way you could make the big leagues, secure that college scholarship, or secure that $20 million contract, could you resist?

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