Thursday, October 04, 2007

Shocking News? Marion Jones Admits Steroid Use -- To paraphrase the famous line from Casablanca, "I'm shocked...shocked to find there is steroid use in the Olympics." So, the Washington Post breaks the story that Marion Jones will plead guilty to using steroids, and admits to using the performance-enhancing substances in advance of the 2000 Olympics. Shocking!

I actually don't mean to detract from what Ms. Jones accomplished. She set new standards for female athletes, but this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, least of all Marion Jones. Yet, according to the article, it was a surprise to her. In the latest dodge that athletes have turned to, Ms. Jones is pleading ignorance, blaming it all on her trainer. According to the Post article, Ms. Jones was told she was taking flaxseed oil supplements.

Of course, this was all done with a wink and a nod. Jones says "Red flags should have been raised when he told me not to tell anyone about" the supplement program.

She also says she noticed that she was recovering more quickly from her workouts. Another red flag for Jones might have been the changes in her body. She looks fantastic, but few women are able to achieve that level of strength and development naturally. As it turns out she was getting THG, the synthetic steroid at the center of the Balco case.

I say we shouldn't be too harsh on Jones, because she achieved remarkable things. 3 gold medals and 2 bronze medals. Not because she is feigning ignorance, but because how many other competitors have done the same? How many of Jones' competitors have always been clean?

This case really brings out the crux of the dilemma in modern sports: We demand the highest performance, but attempt to deprive the athletes of tools they could use to elevate their performance. The temptation to cheat is irresistible, particularly when one suspects your competition won't hesitate to cheat similarly. Testing will always be behind the curve. Some athletes will be caught -- maybe, in time, all will be caught, as test catch up to flag preserved blood samples.

The fact is steroids can be harmful to one's health -- destructive to joints, etc. So are sports. 'Roid rage is a problem, too, but we don't criminalize alcohol, which has similar affects. With women, there can also be considerable, and permanent masculinizing changes to the body, but it's a choice women can make, if it's in the open. Otherwise, they may be victimized by unethical trainers.

So, why are we making criminals of athletes who are playing by the rules their competitors are? I know I'll never be able to compete without the chemical boost, and I won't take it. Then again, I’m no wannabe Olympian or professional. Instead of destroying competitions by pretending we're just leveling the field, why not allow the athletes to do what athletes do? Why not do what they do in bodybuilding, with natural competitions for those who want that, and the prestige competitions for the steroid-using hulks, who've taken their body to the extreme levels that fans want from their athletes?

Cross-posted at

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