Legalize PEDs and Let Athletes Suffer the Consequences

Peter AlfanoContributor IIJanuary 29, 2013

Controversy has followed Ray Lewis throughout his career.
Controversy has followed Ray Lewis throughout his career.Michael Heiman/Getty Images

Enough already. The notion that the so-called steroid era has come and gone in sports is just wishful thinking on the part of league commissioners and officials who don't want negative publicity to have any impact on the billions of dollars that fun and games generate in this country.

It was in 1989 when a former doctor working with the United States Olympic Committee told me and my colleague from The New York Times that the cheaters were always one step ahead of the performance enhancing drug police. And almost 25 years later nothing has changed.

The bombshell at Tuesday's Super Bowl media day came from Sports Illustrated, which published a story that Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker and team leader, had used products that contained a substance banned by the NFL to speed his recover from a torn triceps.

The substance was deer antler spray, which I guess helps explain why deer run so fast.

This comes on the heels of a Miami New Times report that the federal government is looking into Biogenesis of America, a Miami-based clinic that sold PEDs, including steroids and human growth hormone, and had ties with Major League players Alex Rodriguez, Melky Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Gio Gonzalez and Manny Ramirez.

Lewis denied using any products made by Sports with Alternatives to Steroids (SWATS), whose owner contradicts Lewis but says his products are natural and should not be on any list of banned substances.

Whether or not any of these reports are true it appears clear as day that athletes are always looking for an edge, whether it is on the field or in the trainer's room rehabilitating an injury. The irony, of course, is that performance enhancing drugs may eventually contribute to the physical breakdowns athletes suffer.

I don't know about you, but I'm tired of it. The cheaters are always going to be a step ahead, so why not make performance enhancing drugs legal as long as they are administered by a licensed physician?

If athletes are willing to assume the risk and perhaps make themselves vulnerable to illness and a shotened life span, then why should we care? NFL players are already risking life and limb on the football field and short of eliminating tackling and blocking, a majority of players will pay the price in retirement.

You want a level playing field? I'm not sure one ever existed. Oversized pads and illegal sticks were common in hockey; boxers tampered with their gloves. Auto racing almost prides itself on cheating and even the gentleman's game of golf has had incidents of cheating at the highest levels.

We have a mantra in this country that goes "just don't get caught."

Have you noticed that no one ever apologizes for his or her indiscretions until they have been exposed?

And we in the media are as gullible as any fan when it comes to trusting athletes.

I covered the Sydney Olympics in 2000 for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and thought I was being clever when Marion Jones' husband, shotputter T.J. Hunter tested positive for PEDS on the eve of her first race.

Paraphrasing myself I wrote that "Marion Jones awoke today to learn her husband has been cheating on her."

We in the media all felt sorry for Jones who had to live with the stigma that her husband was using PEDs. As we all now know so was Marion Jones, who forfeited all her medals and did jail time for lying to a federal grand jury about her used of PEDs.

We were all played for fools then and that is probably true now.

Sure there are athletes who want to stay clean and they should. No matter how long they play most of their life will occur after sports. They will want to see their children grow up; they will want to cradle their grandchildren.

Maybe the cheaters will have more money in the bank. Maybe they will be in the Hall of Fame. And maybe they will also be using a walker or in a wheelchair before they are 50.

I'm not advocating the use of PEDs but I know it's almost as impossible to police their use as it is to enforce the NCAA book of violations. At least let doctors dole out the drugs in a regulated way and let every athlete who uses them sign a waiver accepting full responsibility for the consequences.

They will forfeit the right to sue a doctor or team or league when they retire and it's time to pay the piper for using these drugs. What good is all the glory and money if you don't live long enough to enjoy it?