Monday, May 5, 2008

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gloves and Needles

Gloves and Needles

Washington D.C,- The District of Columbia might have a new state of the art baseball stadium, but many fans' attention is directed more towards the Capitol as the integrity of America's pastime remains in question.

Performance enhancing drugs do not only plaque Major League Baseball, but legislators are focusing on this league more than any other sport. Over the years, Congress has tried to stay out of regulating issues in professional sports. The government wanted the leagues to handle their problems on their own so the legislators could deal with the United States' more pressing issues.

However, in a survey of 75 American University student athletes and coaches as well as athletes at other schools, the involvement of the U.S. government in the performance enhancing drug crisis in profession sports was overwhelmingly considered necessary.

"Congress did the right thing in getting involved in the proceedings because it was clear that without Congress nothing was going to get done or be solved," said Jesse Ogle, a member of the men's soccer team at American University.

The survey asked the participants, "Should there have been congressional hearings regarding the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs in baseball," and contained three possible answers: 1) yes, Congress was right in getting involved; 2) no, Congress has bigger issues to deal with besides performance enhancing drugs in baseball; 3) I don't know enough about the subject to have an answer/ I don't care enough about the subject to have an answer.

Of the 75 persons responding, 52 individuals said that Congress did the right thing in getting involved in the steroids issue. 15 people responded that Congress should not have involved itself in the issue, because of the more pressing issues to deal with such as the War in Iraq and the current downturn of the economy. The other eight participants gave answers including: they didn't know about the subject; and the subject doesn't affect them so why should they care about it.

The survey also invited the respondents to provide additional comments to supplement their answers. Since only a group of 75 individuals took the survey it is not representative of the nation as a whole, but it does inform as to what other athletes think about steroids, and how they should be regulated.

Tremaine Chinipoo, a student athlete at American University and a person who said that Congress was correct in the getting involved, had this to say about steroids: "I don't follow baseball very closely but I know that if steroids were an issue in a sport that I followed closely than I would want them [Congress] to become involved and try to bring the offenders to justice, and to clean up that sport."

Tremaine's position is representative of many of the other respondents; to protect the game of baseball Congress had no choice but to get involved with the Major League's regulation of steriods. Congress often becomes involved when officials and employees within the government do something wrong or abuse their power, so accordingly Congress should become involved when an athlete in any profession league cheats by taking performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids, to further there greatness within the sport.

Ever since the "home run race," approximately ten years ago, between major leaguers Mark McGwire of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sammy Sosa of the Chicago Cubs, people have suspected that there is abundant use of steroids in baseball. Only now has Major League Baseball's Commissioner Bud Selig, and his office, done anything to try and resolve the issue. Baseball purists want to see at least the last 10 years of statistics stricken from any and all record books, because of the black mark cast over the league by the use of steroids and other performance enhancing drugs.

"I used to play baseball and I know how hard of a sport it can be to play," says Jesse Ogle. "[B]ut a person going from a career average of 20 home runs per season to averaging 56 home runs for one season is not right. These players don't think about the consequences that come with [their] actions, all they wanted to do is be glorified and get paid, no matter if they are cheating."

A new Major League Baseball season started a month ago, but most fans are thinking more about steroids and whether the sport can ever be taken seriously again. The Mitchell Report, written by former Senator George Mitchell, came out during the winter, and it gave Congress all the information it needed. The Mitchell Report is the summation of findings of an investigation, headed by former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, to identify players who abused and continue to abuse performance enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball. The Report informed Congresspersons with the names of both active and former baseball players who were involved with performance enhancing drugs.

Baseball has been the American pastime since the sport's creation. It was there through many of America's wars, through the Civil Rights movement, and through September 11th—where the nation rallied around the New York Yankees and New York Mets as well as the sport after the terrorist attacks. Since it has been around through all of these trying times, it is only right for Congress to step in and try to save the sport when it needs help.

Rep. Henry Waxmen, D-Calif., had this to say about steroids and baseball, "Over the past century, baseball has been part of our social fabric. It helped restore normalcy after war, provided the playing field where black athletes like Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, and inspired civic pride in communities across the country. Now America is asking baseball for integrity. An unequivocal statement against cheating. An unimpeachable policy. And a reason for all of us to have faith in the sport again."

Why would Congress get so involved with a problem that involves professional sports and not address more important issues such as the War in Iraq or the health care crisis?

"It's simple," said Chris Lejuez, a lacrosse player at Boston University located in Boston, Massachusetts, "there are many kids in America and around the world that look up to professional athletes. If they see their role models doing performance enhancing drugs, then they will do it because of the bad example set by the professional athletes."

In the survey, 60 people felt that professional athletes are role models for our youth. Of the 60 respondents who answered that professional athlete are role models, 27 individuals felt that the abuse of performance enhancing drugs would have an effect on whether kids and adolescence would try them. Many minors may use performance enhancing drugs to be like their role models.

This issue is one that must get resolved because performance enhancing drugs' negative side effects. Some major side effects include the depletion of the liver and harm to both males' and females' the reproductive systems as well as other negative health effects some of which could lead to death. There are also numerous minor side effects that could change individuals' generic make-up. The rewards of taking performance enhancing drugs, such as increased strength, are not worth the punishment and embarrassment of getting caught or, more importantly, jeopardizing one's body from the risks, some of which can kill, that come along with performance enhancing drugs.

There have been instances of players' lives and reputations being ruined because they made the choice to use performance enhancing drugs. Many baseball players have been embarrassed over the recent findings that were uncovered in the Mitchell Report. Some high profile baseball players included in the report are Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Rafeal Palmeiro, Miguel Tejada, and Barry Bonds.

There have also been instances where professional athletes lost their lives as a result of abusing performance enhancing drugs. Most notably, all-star Ken Caminiti, the1996 National League Most Valuable Player, died of a heart attack. His death was a result of abusing performance enhancing drugs throughout his baseball career.

Other profession sports leagues have taken steps to make sure that they don't get into the same predicament that Major League Baseball is in right now. The three other major professional leagues—the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association—all implemented drug testing policies that include harsh punishments for players testing positive for using performance enhancing drugs.

A hearing in Congress was held this past February concerning drug testing in the four major sports leagues and appropriate punishments that should go along with positive tests of performance enhancing drugs. The hearing included the commissioners and union leaders of the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball.

Many members of congress present at the hearing stated their frustrations with each league's drug testing policy. One of the Congressmen who voiced this opinion was Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla. "For 16 years, they did nothing about it in professional sports, and now they are asking us to take their word for it that they are taking a high standard like the Olympics," Rep. Stearns said. "We did our hearings [in 2005], and they finally did something. It is a dubious achievement."

After the hearing, Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., the Democratic Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection, echoed Rep. Stearns comments. "There is a role for legislation," Rep. Rush said. "There are things that they are not doing in the sports leagues, and we can help [the leagues] begin to do them."

Some individuals believe that each sport needs to rid itself of performance enhancing drug abusers because their actions hurt the integrity of the sports they play. Nick Hendra, a freshman and varsity men's basketball player at American University, has taken that stance. "I watch sports because of the purity of the game," Hendra said. "I believe that performance enhancing drugs have no use in professional athletics. I think it hurts the reputation of all these sports."

Hendra also voiced his opinion about the many athletes who do not use performance enhancing drugs. "I feel bad[ly] for some of the athletes [who] don't abuse performance enhancing drugs. [Their] sport is under a great deal of criticism because of the few who decided to use drugs," Hendra said. "It's a shame that these athletes have to go through this because of a chosen few who decided to cheat and take performance enhancing drugs."

Commissioners of leagues all around the world should do whatever it takes to get rid of any performance enhancing abuse that occurs in their respective sports, because it is ruining the integrity of their games, and putting many athletes' health in significant danger.

Roger Clemens at his Congressional Hearing

AP photo on

Got Juice

Mitchell Report

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rough Draft lead

Both in Washington DC and on baseball diamonds across the country a new year is beginning or about to begin. More so now than ever before are these two seemingly different areas intertwined and ready for the nation's grueling questions.

Jesse Ogle Interview

Q: Should Congress have gotten involved in the steroids scandal in baseball?

A: Congress did the right thing in getting involved in the proceedings because it was clear that with out Congress nothing was going to get done or be solved. The ability to make people take the stand under oath was necessary in getting to just the tip of the iceberg that is steroids. While Congress and this nation do have more pressing issues, baseball is so called "America's game" and its integrity in the last decade and a half has come under pressure because of people who are trying to play for themselves and not for the love of the game.