What has become of sports? What have become of ethics? What is Performance? What is performance enhancement? What is a Performance enhancement drug? Why does any of that matter?
Whether you’d like to know any of this stuff or not, you are about to find out. We are all about to be injected with some of this information in the very near future. Why? Sadly, the reason why it matters, and the reason why we are all about to get some of this is that the most famous player in the most ballyhoo’d contest on the planet has been accused of using deer antler spray.
Huh? What the hell is deer antler spray?
Hell if I know. But as I understand it, this spray contains a banned substance because it contains some sort of (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1) You see, Ray Lewis, the player in this budding controversy, was injured back in the Fall. This injury took place in October. The injury was a torn triceps muscle. A torn muscle like this takes about a year to recover from, maybe nine months. Ray Lewis if 37. As competitive athletic injuries go, Lewis is a fossil. Lewis somehow managed to recover and return to action as an NFL linebacker in two months or less. Remarkable.
Now, this does not mean Ray-Ray did this. I personally hope that he did not, but it does not look good. I’m not a fan of his team, nor am I much of a fan of his. I recognize his contribution to the league, but I’m not his fan. However, I am a fan of the league. I am a fan of athletics. I am a believer in competition in a variety of areas to determine useful excellence. The sad fact is that our means of devising ways of cheating is vastly outpacing our means of excelling in any particular area of endeavor.
Our investment banks cheat when they make prediction models regarding what will happen under certain economic conditions, and leave out the chance that the economy contracts, thereby only selling the upside to the decision makers. When an inevitable decline occurs, everyone is surprised because we were sold a falsehood off the top.
Our politicians cheat. They cheat in so many ways that it is a topic unto itself. From their spouses, to actual laws, to fudging the appearance of one law, and violating with a legal interpretation, but sold as a misinterpretation. Subway is selling “foot-long” sandwiches that are actually 11 inches long. Ronaiah Tuiasosopo claims to be a woman, extracts a fraudulent relationship from Manti Te’o, and then turns out to be not dead, not her, and not a woman. And back we return to sports.
A man named Christopher Key is a salesman and co-owner of a company which he claims was contacted by Ray Lewis for this deer antler spray. Key also reports that he personally witnessed approximately 20 University of Alabama football players using this substance. (Reportedly it is sprayed into the mouth.) It bears mention that the University of Alabama is the college football national champion for the season just completed.
There is also a new report that Alex Rodriguez is connected with this company, and PED’s (performance enhancing drugs). Just last week, Lance Armstrong sat down with Oprah and admitted, or almost, nearly, sorta admitted to using PED’s, and “blood doping” (removing tired blood and replacing it with oxygenated blood). That story is old news relative to the new controversies buzzing about this week.
So far, the only confirmation is Armstrong’s confirmation/sorta confirmation. (Some interested parties say that it was only a partial confession.) Anyway, it begs the question. In this day of mad science, multimillionaire athletes, multibillionaire entertainment sports complexes/leagues, and a competition loving public, what is competition? What is ethical behavior? Does it matter?
Baseball, as we grew up with it, ended sometime in the early 1990’s. PED’s smashed and warped our concepts of what the contest was, based upon what it had always been. The sudden surreptitious influence of PED’s made it almost unrecognizable. Football may be working its way to extinction based upon its increasing violence and ultimate liability for so many young and middle aged men who have had their brains battered into mush, creating health problems up to and including suicides. Change is probably on the way there, if only for that. But what is ethical competition anymore, and does it matter?
As I understand the controversy surrounding PED’s, they enhance performance. Therefore, there is pressure among the various games participants to gain an edge, or to keep up with those who are gaining an edge, by using these substances. And as I understand it, these substances can cause serious damage to the health of the users. Those using needles to inject some substances are sharing needles and spreading HIV risks. Other maladies include brain cancer, cosmetic changes, mood changes including anger and violence issues, shrinking testicles, growing breasts, etc. That is just the tip of the iceberg, but it suffices to say that many of the consequences are serious deleterious health conditions. So, the ethics question for a society is, shall it be condoned when we can know that the participants are ruining their futures for present day competition and financial gain?
Is this a case where the horse is already out of the barn? Can this sort of thing be contained? If it can’t be stopped, would it not be most fair, most ethical, to just make everyone aware of what PED’s can help them in their chosen fields of endeavor, and accept the increased death and illness in decades to come? Shall we allow the lure of big dollars to motivate athletes to consume themselves for this purpose? Shall me condone the multibillionaire sports complexes to pressure and encourage young men and women who lack, and by dangling fame and fortune in front of them manage to supply the talent to the spectacle that they sell to the public?
If prostitution is made legal, will it cause the pretty young ones to be pressured into selling themselves? If performance enhancing drugs are made legal, will it cause the strong ones to use to maintain their edge, or the slightly weaker ones to use to gain it...and the money? If ethical behavior is lowered so that all levels of unethical behavior match, in the interest of fairness, what sort of society will result? Is that what anyone wants?
I don’t know the answer to these questions. Maybe I do know, and I fear what I think I know. I think football as we know it on all levels is a goner in a decade or so. I don’t think football will survive. The U.S. will finally join the rest of the world playing Soccer. (I guess we will start calling that football.) That prediction comes way before the added problem of PED’s. When you add in that element, I think Ray Lewis did it. I think A-Rod did it...AGAIN. I think Lance Armstrong did it. I think University of Alabama did it. They all laughed at Jose Conseco when he claimed that they all did it.” In time, we discovered that...they all did it.
I plan to watch this Super Bowl, and I hope they are all clean. I hope Ray Lewis did not do it. It does not look good though. Caveat emptor.