Usually, when a venerable member of our nation’s sporting media says something in public about steroids, the message is pretty clear: steroids are awful, only evil cheaters use them and unless we test people to within a hair’s breadth of their life, they will be a scourge upon the land.
Or words to that effect.
ESPN/ABC’s Brent Musburger spoke to students at the University of Montana recently, and he didn’t take that route:
“Here’s the truth about steroids: They work . . .I’ve had somebody say that, you know, steroids should be banned
because they’re not healthy for you. Let’s go find out. What do the doctors actually think about anabolic
steroids and the use by athletes? Don’t have a preconceived notion that
this is right or this is wrong.”
He went on to say that while anabolic steroids have no place in high school athletics, “I think
under the proper care and doctor’s advice, they could be used at the
This will likely have a lot of you fuming, but after reading the whole story I think he makes a lot of sense. It is undisputed that steroids do, in certain situations, bring with them medical benefits. The biggest problem with steroids — aside from the fact that using them violates the rules — is that they can be dangerous if abused or overused.
But what if we had good evidence that, if taken in X dosage by someone in good health, they weren’t harmful at all? What if, under proper medical supervision, they proved to be no different than cortisone shots and vitamin regimens and things like that? Or, if you want to get right down to it, what if they posed risks, but risks that were reasonable enough to where weighing them against the potential to make millions playing sports made taking them worth it?
We don’t have good enough information on this because there haven’t — at least as far as I know — been comprehensive studies in which the effects were tested on healthy, athletic adults. A lot of the reason there hasn’t been such tests, I bet, is because there’s such a stigma and hysteria attached to them.
I tend to think that the stigma is irrational, but I’d really like to know how irrational it is, if at all. And if it’s not irrational — i.e. if there was a safe dosage or use pattern of PEDs that athletes and trainers and/or doctors could adhere to and which could be monitored — what then is the problem?
So no matter how much controversy Musburger has caused — and I sense that he’s caused a fair bit — I think he’s simply making sense here.
Even more sense are his comments about being wary of journalists who seem so darn certain about steroids, one way or the other. How there can be such certainty that the stuff is the devil’s doing without there being much evidence about it never ceases to amaze me.
Anyway, just more food for thought on a topic that I find rather nourishing on an intellectual and ethical level.