Suppose Bobby Valentine is Right?

It was very intriguing to read an article by Adam Wells for the Bleacher Report (September 25, 2015), entitled: “Bobby Valentine Says He Thinks PEDs Will Eventually Become Mainstream in Sports.”

Stated Mr. Valentine:

“This idea that because it’s a drug, and you’re taking it from the outside, that’s bad. But there’s a lot of really good drugs out there that we do take that make us feel better and perform better, and I think these PEDs that people talk about, that are performance-enhancers, will eventually get into the mainstream.”

Bobby ValentineIf we hearken back just a couple of years ago to the Biogenesis scandal and giants such as Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez, it is tempting to imagine a world where every and any athlete, anywhere, could walk into her or his trainer’s office and get any drug available. Perhaps Ryan Braun could have hit .628 or A-Rod, could have averaged 198 homeruns each year for the rest of his career.

Imagine a pharmaceutical free-for-all where just about anything could go, and athletes could become pharmaceutical powerhouses. Imagine if every sport threw out every PED rule. The possibilities would be endless.

I am not saying any of this in a sarcastic manner. I am certainly not demeaning Coach Valentine’s “proposal.” He is an insider. He knows things I don’t know. As most of you understand, behind the team logos and uniforms, the cheering and the accolades, sports is a major business. Better performance means better business.

However, Coach Valentine most often views the sports world through the lens of performance and I view it through the lens of ethics.

What we don’t know

First, simply, we don’t really know what PEDs do to the human body. Initially, they may increase mass, speed and even healing. What will they do to a man or woman by the time they turn 50 or 60? For the most part, we don’t know. We are just now learning what happens to huge athletes after they spend years crashing into each other on the football field. It is often not pretty. The long-term effects of PEDs are still a mystery.

Even if brain injuries and brain damage are not the end result, a body that would normally carry 180 pounds that is bulked up to carry 280 has every joint and organ system stressed. The heart is a muscle; you can enlarge a bicep; at the same time, you might be enlarging the heart.

It is easy to make pointless arguments when you are 18 or 20 by saying, “Well, if I can make my millions and then get out, it is worth it.” It is an argument made by the young and often by the uninformed.

A mediocre D-3 athlete who rides the bench on Saturdays will not play in the NFL on Sundays. The percentage of athletes in any sport even at the D-1 level making it into any professional rank is infinitesimally small. If there is a PED free-for-all, it is easy to imagine the road to fame and glory being littered with busted dreams and busted hearts (literally) and shot livers.

If we argue that it is “worth it,” my follow up question might be, if cardiovascular, joint disease, brain abnormalities and compromised liver function are worth it as well. With every reward, there will come risk.

If we are willing to accept the reward, are we willing to accept the consequences of our choices? We cannot gloss over this point. If an athlete collapses and dies on a baseball field due to the long-term effects of a PED cocktail, will the athlete’s family simply turn around, walk away and say, “It was worth it?”

This leads to the argument, of course, of “What PEDs?” If there is no limit, if anything goes, at what point does an experimental PED start to turn the body on itself? Sports is a competitive pursuit. If I am popping a pill, or injecting substance “A,” what happens when you do “A + B?” Once the door is opened wide, where will it stop? We don’t know. The question has not been properly addressed, and medically, the question has not been fully answered.

Now we come to the aspirational argument. If it is acceptable for a professional athlete at 19 to take PEDs to help her make her professional soccer team, is it acceptable for her 14 year old sister to take them as well? If not, why not? What is the argument against it?

Sports is aspirational. Neither Coach Valentine nor any other coach will deny that. A very long time ago, I grew up idolizing Willie Mays. I grew up idolizing Pele and Bob Cousy, too. I was a klutz at baseball, soccer and basketball! The point is, if those men had done PEDs, I might have damn well been tempted to be like them.

There is very strong evidence (indeed confirmation) of high school athletes as young as 13 taking PEDs. How will we stop the pharma free-for-all once it starts? Who will talk these kids out of it?

The last question Coach Valentine, is if we don’t already know what we might be afraid to know? That should ethically scare every coach, athlete and parent to death.







Leave a Reply

Connect with Us

Phone: (828) 244-1400
Fax: (866) 426-4118
Chuck Gallagher
3620 Pelham Road #305
Greenville, SC 29615