Archive for the ‘Steroids’ Category

The Needle And The Damage Done

August 6, 2009

Rashard Lewis has totally stolen my thunder. I’ve been planning a steroids in the NBA piece for quite some time – I even pitched it to Sports Illustrated today – and he has to go and get busted for steroids. I wanted to explore why every other sport seems to have problems with performance enhancing drugs (or PEDs if you want to be cool) but the NBA so far had been free of blemishes. Sure, plenty of players had been busted for chasing the dragon, but no one in the NBA would ever dream of using steroids or other PEDs.


Then Rashard had to go and piss it all away (pun intended). He’s already trotted out the old reliable (nudge,nudge,wink,wink) “tainted supplement” excuse, which has to be the lamest and least believable alibi in the book. Even when I was playing basketball in university in Canada I had a list provided to me of all the supplements that were banned in the league, so there is no excuse for Lewis to not know that he was taking something against the rules (which, to his credit, he has pretty much come out and said himself). I much prefer players with unique excuses, like that tennis player who was busted for cocaine who claimed it got into his system when he kissed a mysterious woman he met in the bar. Now that is a cool excuse. Guess Rashard’s wife would be pissed with that one though.

But the real news here is not Rashard Lewis getting busted, but why more NBA players don’t get caught. Despite all the negatives to PEDs (long-term health issues, illegal, against the rules) many athletes think the positives far outweigh them. PEDs can make you faster, stronger, bigger and aid in recovery and recuperation – all vital for sports. So why are we supposed to believe that NBA players aren’t interested in getting an edge on the competition, what with millions of dollars in contracts and millions more in endorsements up for grabs? If football players, and baseball players and bike riders and so on all do PEDs, why wouldn’t basketball players also?

What is more interesting to ponder is what would the NBA, its corporate partners, the media and the fans think if a PED problem got uncovered in the League? Lewis will be a good test case, an all-star player but not a superstar or big name guy. A 10-game suspension is a pretty small slap on the wrist – less than an eighth of the season – so perhaps the League isn’t too concerned with the problem.

But what do we, as fans, feel about this? Do we care if our basketball heroes are doping? We care in baseball because that is a game steeped in history, where records and numbers matter and we don’t want the heroes of yesterday getting robbed by young drug users. We don’t care in football or MMA because those athletes are warriors and we only care about the size of the combatants and the ensuing violence of their collisions. But basketball is sort of in between these two extremes. So, do we care if NBA players are on steroids or HGH? Would Michael Jordan’s aerial exploits be diminished if we found out drugs were helping him jump that high? Would we still consider LeBron or Kobe the best in the world if we discovered they were sticking themselves with needles in the training room?

I guess these are all questions that don’t have a consensus answer – it all depends on what each of us feel about the issue on a personal level. But just be prepared to do some soul searching soon – if virtually every other sport is touched by PEDs the NBA can’t remain scot-free for much longer.


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