Doping double-standards hurt us all

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

This week, the New York Daily News reported that St. Louis Cardinals pitcher-turned-slugger Rick Ankiel received shipments of Human Growth Hormone in 2004.

In the story’s wake, one question kept resurfacing: did Ankiel " this season’s feel-good story " do anything wrong given that HGH wasn’t banned until after he finished doping?

It’s easy to take that angle " if HGH was legal, then what’s the problem?

Fans have refused to stand by that view in other cases, though. The allegations against Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire both suggest they doped before anabolics and androstenedione were banned by MLB.

Fans still blame Bonds and McGwire for doping, so why not Ankiel?

Some say steroids are a different case since they’re illegal under criminal drug laws, but that violation is no worse than Babe Ruth drinking during his prohibition playing days.

Ankiel’s story was a bright spot in an otherwise scandal-filled summer of sports, so we’d all love to let him off the hook.

We’re only hurting ourselves when we apply these double-standards. Like it or not, we can’t choose who to blame for doping and who to give free passes to.

While users such as Bonds, McGwire and sprinter Justin Gatlin are ostracized from the athletic community, Ankiel will probably be just fine, and he’s not the only one.

This weekend, football analysts everywhere toted Shawne Merriman as the likely NFL Defensive Player of the Year, despite Merriman missing four games due to a failed drug test last year.

Merriman is a phenomenal athlete and an entertaining guy, so fans and commentators alike turn a blind eye to his infraction.

With that kind of treatment, why wouldn’t he dope? If professional athletes can deal with the side effects, they’d almost be idiots not to juice up, get jacked and light it up on the field.

So what if they get caught? Merriman served four games, came back and registered 17 sacks, and suddenly he’s not a cheater anymore but rather a premier linebacker.

A lot of athletes are being legitimately punished for doping, but as long as this double-standard exists we won’t be able to solve the steroid epidemic. Performance-enhancers are either alright or not "walking the middle line only perpetuates the problem.

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