I am a sports fan. I am a diehard Chicago Blackhawks fan and Pittsburgh Steelers fan. Across professional sports world-wide, there is the issue of athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. These may be in the form of steroids, human growth hormone, various stimulants, etc. What I cannot comprehend is that as fans we tolerate this form of cheating. There is no other way to look at someone who uses performance-enhancing drugs/substances other than that they are cheating. The players that I admire the most are those who work hard every single game and practice and who treat their fans well. It sickens me to hear about kids who catch a ball at a professional game only to have security come by to take it away or when you have to pay to meet a professional athlete for an autograph. It makes me nuts. These are the people that society holds up as role models and sadly so many lack the values that role models should hold. The true role models and heroes of society are found in our military, first responders, health care professions (not administrators but nurses and doctors), educators, and so on. You get my point. Here we have individuals who are chosen to compete in the professional arena, given an unbelievably high salary (notice that I did not say earn), and other perks “just because” they are a professional athlete. Explain to me the reasoning why someone who earns $30 million a year gets free shoes while our veterans find themselves homeless and unemployed upon leaving the military? Why does someone who works one or more jobs earning minimum wage have to shell out the money for shoes when an athlete who earns $30 million a year gets the freebie? Does anyone else see this as wrong? But I digress.
Our society holds these professional athletes up as heroes and role models and yet they are allowed to cheat. Not only cheat, but get inducted into the hall of fame of said profession. They keep their money and fame with maybe a slap on the wrist.
In general, I am not a fan of zero tolerance policies. They do not allow for the individual to build internal behavior management skills and they do not account for individual circumstances. However, I feel the advantages of large scale behavior modification of a group, insuring consequences, and insuring uniform consequences for all offenders outweigh the negatives when it comes to performance-enhancing drug use and professional athletes. Every time I see a professional baseball player throw a hissy fit, I want him to go and pee in a cup to check for steroid use. Every time, a professional basketball player starts fighting like suddenly they are playing ice hockey, they need to pee in a cup to check for steroid use. If you fail, that is it. No three strikes rule, no warnings, you are done. You are out! You are out of the profession, you are exempt from endorsement deals, any records you hold should be removed and wiped clean, and you are exempt from induction into the hall of fame. Pete Rose is prohibited from induction into the baseball hall of fame because of his gambling past. Why is gambling considered less honorable that substance use? Both involve cheating (if Pete Rose influenced players based on bets he placed). Why is there a zero tolerance policy against gambling but not substance use and cheating? Using corked bats is cheating. The moment Sammy Sosa’s bat broke revealing cork, that should have been the end of his career. Barry Bonds has no business holding records when he was using performance-enhancing drugs.
Bottom line, it is cheating. What message does this send our kids when it is okay for professional athletes not only to cheat, but to earn big bucks because of it? In light of the sad values that our society seems to be pushing forth, it is unsurprising that I have encountered more cases of plagiarism among my students in the past 2 years compared to my overall 14 years of teaching experience. The message becomes one of: use whatever methods necessary to earn as much money as possible and win. Try not to get caught but if you do, hire expensive attorneys to get out of it. What happened to accountability? What happened to honor? Maybe I expect too much of the role models in our society. Perhaps that is why I do not call any celebrity or professional athlete a hero. I reserve that treasured honor for those who sacrifice themselves for the greater good, those who dedicate themselves to the bettering of society, not the inflation of a personal savings account.
I know it seems that I am picking on baseball, but I am the first to admit that cheaters are found in all sports including my beloved ice hockey and American football league. If it turned out that my favorite player was found to be using performance-enhancing drugs, I would want him/her to suffer the consequences.
As a sports fan, I am very disappointed that the professional leagues are not taking a harder line on cheating. I do not believe that winning at any cost is a value that our society should hold dear. The ramifications of such a value are seen daily from the world economic crisis (thank you CEO bankers for screwing up the world economy and keeping your bonuses while fleecing American tax payers of their hard-earned money and homes; the CEOs & other top-level administrators should not only be fired, but be forced to repay the taxpayers and serve prison time) to educators dealing with issues of plagiarism to children dealing with bullying to the overall societal acceptance of hazing as an appropriate way to induct members into a group. We need to bring attention to true heroes of our society. We need to place more emphasis on life-affirming activities and values rather than on individualistic and materialistic values. At what point are we going to say “Enough!” to the cheaters of society and demand accountability and restitution? Based on the current trends, not soon enough.