Column: Steroids: Would you?

By Ian Gold

Barry Bonds gets needles thrown at him when the Giants are on the road. Jason Giambi hears “steroid” chants when he comes up to bat. And the name Rafael Palmeiro will be forgotten in just a few years. But don’t hate the player, hate the game.

It’s so easy to detach yourself from the steroid trouble sweeping professional sports. For most Americans, the closest they will come to knowing what a professional athlete goes through is by holding the other side of a Playstation controller. Whether you have done your fair share of trashing the character of Mark McGwire or other steroid users, think about the situation objectively. If you were blessed with a hitters eye, would you go the extra mile?

I know that you understand what I’m talking about, but maybe you’ve never actually considered it because you’ve never had the gargantuan possibilities that professional baseball players have out in front of them. Take the average baseball player. Unless you are a rabid fan you might not even know his name, but to him there is a world of possibilities. He couldn’t run like Ricky Henderson, he didn’t have Ken Griffey Jr.’s power or sweet swing; but what he did have was enough God-given ability to play professionally.

This average player that hit .275 and 17 home runs a year was making more money than you do, but when compared with his teammate who hit .305 and 35 home runs he was making chump change. The difference through the course of his career could equal near 40 million dollars; all it would take for average Joe to turn into Luis Gonzalez was some added strength. During Gonzalez’s first four full seasons he hit a total of 46 home runs. In 2001 he hit 57; and was rewarded with a contract that would make Bill Gates smile. Since the league itself made performing-enhancing drugs such as steroids illegal, his power numbers have slipped.

But his bank account hasn’t. Gonzalez is set for life, his children are set for life and maybe even his grandchildren will get nice cars. As a competitor, would you settle for mediocre, or would you feel compelled to “cheat” and cash in? While the justice system classifies steroids as illegal, Major League Baseball disagreed. They chose not to enforce a steroid policy and turned a blind eye to any stars that had a sudden burst of power. I don’t mean to pick on Luis Gonzalez, because I couldn’t say that in the same situation I wouldn’t do the same.

Jose Canseco said that steroids make a bad athlete good and a good athlete superhuman. If you could wear the S on your chest, would you turn it down in favor of riding shotgun to your juiced up locker mate? If you didn’t stick yourself for the money, maybe the fame would get you. Mark McGwire was larger than life not only in St. Louis, but all over America. Along with fellow steroid user, Sammy Sosa, they brought back the national past-time. Can we hate them? McGwire was everybody’s role model and now he doesn’t want to think about the past. Should we thank them? This wasn’t cheating the record books. This was their lives. They had the chance to be pretty good, but they saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and a needle that made them extraordinary.

Canseco admitted to using steroids but also conceded that while he was hitting the ball harder and farther, he was playing against people with the same supernatural abilities. Canseco also had to hit the ball from pitchers that found a new gear to their fastballs and more cheese on their breaking stuff. We pick and choose who to vilify, but in this era, imagine all the “honest” people that never left AAA. These ballplayers might have done “the right thing” but you don’t know their names to congratulate them.

Would you live paycheck to paycheck instead of whipping around in an Escalade? Could you have fans checking the program to see if they pronounced your name right, or would you be the one they came early to watch in batting practice? Would watching your steroid-using teammate get showered with love and admiration day in and day out drive you to take the next step?

It’s a good question. Would you?

Ian Gold is a senior in communications. He can be reached at [email protected]