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Slugging it out on the Hill: time to strike out the steroid menace.

The fight against steroids in baseball and the entire sports culture is still in extra innings.

No runs, no hits, many errors, and the massive absence of integrity.

How the mighty have fallen. Can we take them seriously when they tell us to wipe the slate clean, drop all of the negativism, and "start all over again"?

That is nonsense. We cannot turn our backs on rampant dishonesty. We have duties and a responsibility to maintain the integrity of our game, institutions, and daily lives.

There has to be accountability for the bumpy playing fields on which we are now playing.

For our parents and youth coaches, this is about the health and well-being of youngsters who emulate and idolize our professional ballplayers.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What's that Mr. Big-Time Ballplayer? You say that you don't want to be a role model for young people?

Sorry about that, Slugger! It comes with the territory and your chosen profession, with all of its multi-million dollar contracts, TV face time, admiring fan base, and endorsements.

More importantly, it also comes with everything that is sacred and admirable about sports.

You say that parents should be the role models? Right! No argument there.

Parents should be good at what they do--parenting.

But you guys are bigger than life to these kids. Unfortunately, it's the way some of you are getting big that's hurting everyone and the game you represent.

Anyone who hasn't lived in a cave for the past 30 years is well-aware of the proliferation of performance-enhancing drugs in every sport.

Did Major League Baseball really think that this monster lived in everyone's closet except theirs?

Was baseball's hierarchy under the convoluted assumption that steroids are only abused by weightlifters, bodybuilders, football players, and bar bouncers?

There was a lot of rhetoric about unions and collective bargaining during the baseball hearings, and we have a suggestion for MLB: Try interjecting some collective common sense into the next collective bargaining meeting. The initial proposal for the strong anti-steroid testing policy you so desperately need was rightfully met with consternation and antipathy.

Why? Because it was a joke!

It allowed for four strikes before a player could be declared out for the season; complete with an addendum to allow him to buy his way out of suspension with a fine.

Testing is meant to serve as a deterrent, an educational vehicle, and a warning that illicit, illegal (a felony, in the case of steroids) drug abuse will not be tolerated.

The testing has its most rudimentary level, the goals of protecting the health of the players and the very heart and soul of the game.

It is not designed to be a weak, finger-wagging disciplinary stunt or a public relations smoke screen. Quite simply, it is serious business with serious consequences for those who choose to be non-compliant.

FINAL OUT

The most compelling, sensible, and heartfelt statements made on Capitol Hill in March came from the parents of athletes whose lives ended tragically.

Donald Hooton, whose son, Taylor, a high school baseball player in Texas, committed suicide in 2003 after taking steroids, had this to say:

"Players who are guilty of taking steroids are not only cheaters, but cowards. They should show our kids that they are man enough to face authority, tell the truth, and face the consequences. Instead, they hide behind the skirts of their union, and, with the help of management and their lawyers, make every effort to resist facing the public."

Denise Garibaldi of Petaluma, California, whose son, Rob, also used steroids and committed suicide, had this to say:

"There's no doubt in our minds that steroids killed our son. Ultimately, we do blame Rob for his use .... However, with his sports heroes as examples, and Major League Baseball's blind eye, his decision was a product of erroneous information and promises."

It's time to put some sharp teeth into the MLB testing process and get rid of steroids, steroid precursors, human-growth hormone, and the cheaters who abuse them.

It's time for MLB to cease this "half-baked doping policy which insults the intelligence of the U.S. public," as stated by Richard Pound, the president of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Let's hope that the hearing on the Hill will help to save baseball - and prevent future players from driving off the steroid cliff.

It's way beyond time to get tough on steroids.

RELATED ARTICLE: TIP FROM THE TRENCHES

Know the enemy--Androgenic-Anabolic steroids are synthetic derivatives of the male sex hormone, testosterone. The term "androgenic" refers to the effects that these chemicals have on male sexual characteristics.

"Anabolic" is the most commonly heard term, and it refers to the promotion of skeletal muscle. Chemists have feverishly attempted to minimize the androgenic effects, while concurrently heightening the anabolic effects. In the clinical setting, and under stringent administration and monitoring, these drugs have certain useful medical indications--most significantly in severe burns, muscle-wasting diseases, and delayed puberty.

They are used illegally and illicitly by certain athletes and others who are looking for a short-cut to improve size, strength, power, physique, and/or self-confidence. Contrary to what abusers, underground publications, and pro-steroid Web sites fallaciously preach, there is no scientifically proven "safe" way to self-administer these potentially harmful compounds in every individual case.

As with any drug, people react and respond independently to their effects. However, it has been shown that, over time, any one or more of several serious side effects can surface. Just how long it will take before they rear their ugly heads is an individual anomaly. The bottom line, though, is that it is virtually impossible to continue an anabolic drug regimen without eventually suffering from one or more of the possible deleterious consequences listed here:

Note: While there are some very gender-specific possible health consequences from anabolic steroid abuse, the following represent some of the most serious for both males and females.

* Increased LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and decreased HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol), which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).

* Abnormal enlargement of the heart's left ventricle, which can lead to serious malfunctions of the heart muscle.

* Strokes.

* Liver dysfunction and/or tumors.

* Certain cancers.

* Increase in connective tissue injuries.

* Disruption of endogenous (normal) hormonal production and functions, which can lead to a host of serious sexual and growth dysfunctions.

* Adverse mood swings and clinical depression.

For scientifically grounded, sensible, useful, and correct information on anabolic steroids--including educational avenues, intervention strategies, and the consequences of their abuse--we suggest that you log on to the following Web sites: www2.ncaa.org, www.drugabuse.gov, www.drugfreesport.com, and www.jointogether.org.--Ken Mannie

By Ken Mannie, Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University
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Title Annotation:POWERLINE; baseball
Author:Mannie, Ken
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
Words:1117
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