I usually write about music, because that is what I know best. My next passion is sports. No longer as a participant, but as a fan. After spending another Sunday watching football, it became more apparent than ever the negative affect steroids are having on sports.
This weekend also saw several tributes to Roger Maris’ successful assault on Babe Ruth’s record for homeruns in a single season. Despite Maris’ record being eclipsed by baseball’s Steroid Poster Children, most baseball people still recognize Maris as the single season homerun king.
McGwire finally admitted to using steroids in his record-breaking season. Barry Bonds, though never an admitted juicer, saw his head size grow and according to his girlfriend his testicles shrink to the size of “Rasinettes” during the latter years of his career. Sammy Sosa has always been suspected of juicing. But he also had “Superballs” fly out of his broken bat one day. A trick that is used by players to give the bat a trampoline-affect when a ball is hit.
Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids in 2003, the year he won the MVP Award. Do we really think that AFTER winner the award A-Rod decided that he had enough of PEDs? A-Rod suffered a relatively new Labrium injury to his hip. Something unheard of years ago. Manny Ramirez tested positive for steroids this year. Rather than sit out the 100 game suspension that faced him, he retired.
It is my opinion that many, many players still use steroids. The ones that are most frequently caught are the lower echelon players. Could this be because they don’t have access to the best doctors. Those that specialize in masking the presence of PEDs in an athlete’s blood stream. Ramirez’s first suspension was not a result of testing positive for steroids, but for test positive for a drug, exclusively prescribed for a female disorder, but also used to masking the presence of steroids in a urine test.
Let’s look at Jose Reyes. Earlier in his career Jose hit quite a few homeruns for a shortstop. In 2006 he actually hit 19. Not so coincidentally Jose also visited Dr. Anthony Galea in Canada. Galea treated Carlos Beltran, Tiger Woods and other athletes. I suggest that Jose did take steroids earlier in his career, but has stopped. He has become more of an average hitter and stopped swinging for the fences. As a result Reyes is having the best season of his career. He has only 5 home runs. He also has spent long stints on the DL for injuries related to his legs and hamstring muscles. Muscles that could easily be over-developed as a result of steroid use. In Jose’s case, not having the power and the mindset to swing for the fences has actually helped him be a better ballplayer.
Let’s look at Tiger Woods. The year before his famous downfall, Woods re-surfaced after the winter and he looked like Charles Atlas. He was “cut” like never before. After visiting Dr. Galea. Could it be that his body was artificially enhanced? Is it possible that he no longer juices and the result has been the breakdown of his body? Leading to the worst year in his career.
If you need more proof, look at Jose Bautista. Bautista went from hitting less than 20 homeruns every year to hitting 50. While he may not hit 50 this year, he will be close. Bautista plays in Toronto. The same city in which Dr. Galea practices. Coincidence?
If you still need more proof, watch an old game on the MLB Network. I recently watched the game that the Yankees played the day of Thurman Munson’s funeral in August of 1979. The players were sticks compared to what they look like today. Perhaps it is because today’s player works harder at staying fit and building their bodies. Or, could it be something else?
The most alarming change has been in pro-football. In 1970 there was one player over 300 pounds on NFL Rosters. In 1980 there were 3. In 1990 there were 94. In 2000, 301. In 2009, 304 and at the start of training camp in 2010 there were over 500 players on NFL Training Camp rosters over 300 pounds. Many in the 350 plus range.
Has mankind gotten bigger? Did nutrition and weightlifting do all this? Or has HGH found its way onto the playing field? The league must have its suspicions, because it is just beginning to institute testing. Is it a coincidence that some teams are starting to look for “leaner” offensive and defensive lineman. Are they anticipating a change in the bodies of the lineman of the future? In the 80s and early 90s a typical offensive lineman weighed 260 or 270. Now, QBs and running backs weigh over 250 pounds in many cases. These big men are also very fast.
Perhaps as a result we seem to be seeing more serious injuries. Not yet life-threatening, but seemingly far more concussions. More injuries not necessarily to catching your cleat in the turf and tearing your knees, but impact injuries. Also, muscle tears, such as bicep and pectoral tears are relatively common. How much force does it take to tear a pectoral muscle? The answer, lots.
The players are bigger and faster than ever before. As a result, Marquee players are at greater risk. This year has seen major injuries to very significant players. The Giants have been decimated by concussions to key personnel. It feels like most teams in the league are without a key player or two, only three weeks into the season. While injuries have always been a part of Pro Football, the number of injuries and the degree of seriousness seems to be greater now.
Concussions are dangerous business. According to a Boston University study there seems to be a cluster of Lou Gehrig’s Disease in former football players as well as soccer players. Soccer players often use their head to hit balls flying at nearly 60 MPH. Football players are at 8 times the risk of contracting ALS as the general public. Soccer players 6.5 times the risk. Gehrig in fact was beaned in the head 5 times. One instance saw him lie unconscious on the field for five minutes. He never missed a game because of a concussion. The Boston University study questions as to whether this could be the cause of his illness while still in the prime of life.
The illness seen in athletes is a little different than a typical case of ALS. Usually ALS cruelly cripples its victims bodies, while leaving their minds in tact. In the case of most of the former football players with the disease, it also robs them of the mental capacity. The result seems to be a quicker end.
So what we are seeing is an increase in injuries now and even more sinister is the risk of a long term fatal injury in retirement.
Although homeruns put people in seats. We need MLB to really crackdown on steroid use. Not secret testing with questionable penalties. But random testing with the results being made public. If the NFL doesn’t do something now, we will see a diminished product on the field. It is not as much fun watching the second or third string players fight it out, as it is to see the stars.
It is in the interest of all sports to eliminate this plague and give the fans a chance to see the real thing.