Come down on steroid abuse, for the kids
Pressure for young people comes in many forms, but one of the most obvious, especially in a small town like South Lake Tahoe, is the pressure to succeed on the playing field in youth sports.
Here, a small network of friends and family defines the social interaction of locals – you see it every time you visit a grocery store or barbershop. Many who call South Lake Tahoe home and raise families here keep abreast of other families and their kids.
Revelations this week about the specter of steroid use in Major League Baseball has ramifications for young people trying to succeed in a pressure situation. When baseball shows a disregard for the sanctity of the game by refusing to come down hard on steroid abuse, it sends a message to athletes all the way down to the high school level. The message is: Steroids are an acceptable training method, and they work.
If Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and Olympic track star Marion Jones – among others revealed during grand jury testimony in the BALCO case – have indeed used steroids, it is proof that they work. These are athletes who have transitioned from “gifted” to “legendary” during their athletic careers. And the example of Barry Bonds since eclipsing Mark McGwire’s home run record in 2001 is the most telling. Here is a man heralded as perhaps the greatest baseball player of all time. Now, with revelations that he used steroids (though he claims unknowingly), how will his record stand the test of time?
Baseball, and indeed all professional sports, need to follow the protocol set by the NFL and cycling – test, test and test again. Sports are a fundamentally pure part of American culture, and they should stay that way. It is incumbent upon professional sports to take a hard line against steroid abusers in their ranks, even if it meets with opposition from players’ unions.
When we hold professional athletes to higher standards, they become legitimate roll models worth admiring by our young people. Then the pressure to succeed, even in small town USA, is less likely to result in dangerous, desperate behavior.