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Friday, October 24, 2014

The Three Step Process to Denying Performance-Enhancing Drug Usage

Recently, OJ Mayo joined the long list of professional athletes who were caught using an illicit performance-enhancing substance and subsequently caught using a bad excuse to explain usage of said substance. Based on the now predictable response of those who have been found guilty, the doping playbook uses a three-step process to react to a positive test. Number one: look surprised. Step two: deny all accountability. Three: if all else fails blame it on an over-the-counter supplement/energy drink or some other poor faceless schlub.

Heart, chemistry, teamwork. These were once the hallmarks of sportsmanship. Now, the only time you hear about heart is when there is an enlarged one from supplementation. The chemistry is supplied by ne’er-do-wells Vince Galea and Victor Conte. And, teamwork only exists when one player is helping another with steroid, er, Vitamin B-12 injections. Baseball has been racked with so many allegations, one would half expect the 2013 Hall of Fame induction class to include cream, clear, and Report, Mitchell to be enshrined. Heck, if you total up the number of home runs hit as a result of the trio, it makes Ruth and Aaron’s power look like that of Rowan and Martin.

What happened to the days where athletes got by on grit, toughness, and, perhaps, a horse tranquilizer or four? Eh, you probably misremembered those days, too. I presume there’s no blood test for gumption, or a urine test for elbow grease. Nowadays, it’s out with the old in with the “-ol.” Heck, even the producers of the chicken at the market go out of their way to say “steroid-free.” (Presumably, these chickens were killed because they could not keep up with the birds that were drugged.)

Illegal supplementation in sports is so widespread that you could enhance your perspicacity just by the number of terms available to describe it. Steroids, PEDs, muscle-building supplements, ergogenics, designer drugs. Then you get into the ABCs of pharmaceuticals: EPO, HGH, DHEA. It’s enough to fill up a book the size of Mark McGwire’s now-prominent breasts (a side effect).

Since this discussion concerns only sports enhancing drugs, we’ll leave plain old narcotics for another day. After all, Richard Gasquet’s positive cocaine test from what he said was making out with a woman is best left for Ripley’s to solve anyway.

Floyd Landis tried to blame it on the al-coh-ol (actually, I stuttered in disbelief, not because of the song), when he said his testosterone levels were elevated due to whiskey. Brian Cushing went the other way and said his T levels were too high from working out. Perhaps he, too, attended the O.J. Mayo clinic of bad excuses. Remember when track and field star Justin Gatlin attributed his red flagged test to a rub-down from a trainer with some steroid cream? He wins the award for the most secure excuse. Barry Bonds gained about 50 pounds and three hat sizes when he took a flaxseed supplement. I’ve been looking for his brand of flax for years because the supplement that I’ve been using simply gives me flatulence, and no home run power. Tyler Hamilton should have been given an award for original screenplay when he blamed his usual red blood cell count on a vanishing twin. No ifs, ands, or butts, folks. That is, unless you are Brian McNamee with needle in hand.

Fine, if we are not here to speak about the past, then we present you … well, the present, which is why Mayo needs to catch up (see what I did there?). Mayo was suspended 10 games by the NBA for taking a DHEA supplement, which he said was unknowingly ingested from an energy drink (see Johnson, Ben). Don’t these guys even do an Internet search anymore to research the plausibility of these claims? It only takes a second or two. Doesn’t anyone remember those DARE commercials or McGruff? No one’s saying OJ got away with murder (don’t look at me like that). After all, while taking the supplement, he lost his starting job with the Memphis Grizzlies, and was punched out by Tony Allen of all people — not quite Buster Douglas material. Isn’t the key part of the equation performance ENHANCING?!? Rashard Lewis can tell you about the horrors of drug use. He tested positive for the same supplement and now is playing on a team that has as many road wins as chances that Rafael Palmeiro will enter the Hall of Fame anytime soon without first paying admission.

Illicit drug use continues to plague all sports. For goodness sake, last week, UFC 126’s main event featured one guy who had previously failed a drug test who was fighting only because the previous fighter had been suspended for a suspicious blood test. It appears the days of the scrappy athlete getting by on hard work alone are as outdated as the multivitamin. With science continuing to stay one step ahead, it seems that the odds of sports being dominated by legions of clean athletes are about as small as, well, you know …



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