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Friday, June 21, 2024
The Eagle

Say no to 'roids

Sideline Scholars

In early September, federal agents from the Internal Revenue Service and Food and Drug Administration, in addition to San Mateo County narcotics officers, raided BALCO labs, on allegations of tax evasion and that its doctors distributed illegal performance-enhancing drugs, in Burlingame, Calif., and sent shockwaves through the sports world.

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative (BALCO), owned by Victor Conte, former funk band Tower of Power bassist, designed and manufactured nutritional supplements like ZMA for high profile professional and Olympic quality athletes, including one of the greatest ballplayers of all time, Barry Bonds, and many Oakland Raiders.

The federal investigation that followed the raid has opened a Pandora's box, bringing to light allegations of steroid use by acclaimed athletes whose training routines and supplement use hasve been questioned by the sports media for years.

Steroids have been seen as the best way for athletes to cheat in sports, but should they be banned from sports? People like Conte would argue that they are not illegal drugs, but rather performance enhancers that improve the entertainment value of the sport.

Major League Baseball players have been haunted by the fact that there has not been a drug-testing policy in their organization. Because of the lack of testing, allegations of drug use have turned into confirmation for players like Bonds, whose records will forever be questioned because drug use might have been a cause, seeing that it was never confirmed nor denied by a test.

This scenario was played out for two other players when many skeptics in the media began to raise questions about performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa were battling to top Roger Maris' single-season home run record of 61, set in 1961. Many columnists at the end of the 1998 season concluded that the sole reason Sosa (66) and McGwire (70) beat Maris' untouchable record due to their alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. Androstenedione is one example that has since been banned by many professional sports and the NCAA.

The same columnists went on to conclude years later that this drug use led to McGwire's early retirement due to the deterioration of his body from the over-use of muscle building steroids. None of these allegations for Sosa or McGwire were ever confirmed by MLB because a drug-testing policy did not exist.

This year MLB has finally acted and is one of the last athletic organizations - besides the National Hockey League - amateur or professional, to implement a drug-testing and penalization program. This policy change was the result of a one year study by MLB that found that of the 1,200 players tested for muscle-building steroids, 7 percent tested positive (tests were done at random, and no names were recorded during testing).

The new MLB policy states that any player who fails a drug test for the first time will receive treatment, and the second will result in a 15-day suspension or fine up to $10,000. Each successive violation results in the doubling of the fine and suspension. This policy lacks the ability for MLB to kick a player out of baseball for good.

The professional sports that have implemented drug-testing policies have either acted too late and left an unfair stigma on players like Bonds, or do not have a significant threat of losing their livelihood if they cheat.

There is no entertainment value in knowing that an aspiring athlete might be getting an unfair advantage and putting his or her body at risk. The MLB should look to fix their policies before the values, history and records of these great sports are taken over not by better athletes, by but smart cheaters - or it might just appear that way.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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