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Volume 69, Issue 148, Thursday, June 24, 2004

Sports
 

Demands on athletes lead to bad choices

By Mario Mohan
The Daily Cougar

How does the athlete of today deal with the pressures of staying within reach of what is expected of him or her? When it comes to athleticism, reaching that personal best in any sport is mentally and physically grueling. Many athletes rise early in the morning to begin one of three exercise sessions per day. If they have other responsibilities -- a family or job -- it becomes an intense game of mind over matter.

Today's athletes are focused on the accomplishment of being No. 1. It is instilled in them at an early age, and the words "just do your best" become irrelevant. Failure is rarely mentioned as they strive to improve. This pushes them to be the best at all cost. It's comparable to education for the purpose of career advancement -- you improve your chances to advance before you reap the benefits. 

What would you do to keep someone from taking your job? Would you push yourself to unthinkable limits to be regarded as the best at what you do? If you are a competitor, the answer is yes. In the workplace or on the playing field, many look for that edge. 

In the world of athletics, that edge can be gained through performance-enhancing drugs. They provide that extra burst off the starting blocks, the strength in the weight room and the extra pop in the bat. They build physiques resembling those of Greek gods. They grant the abilities to do the seemingly impossible. 

Today's athletes aren't necessarily more dedicated than those of yesteryear. Nevertheless, the muscles of past athletes were generally not as defined, their athleticism was not as graceful and their speed was not as amazing as that of today's stars. And these athletes worked just as hard and prepared with the same level of determination.

For some athletes, tomorrow does not exist. It is only today's spirit of competition they can see. Sports build futures and provide for families. The single most frightening emotion in this world of sport is the feeling of failure. And it is unfortunate that the athletes accused of using performance-enhancing drugs usually don't perform as well after they make headlines. For example, Marion Jones' fifth-place performance in the 100-meter dash Saturday at the Prefontaine classic was not up to par for her, and the culprit may be an ongoing investigation into her alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Sports history is full of evidence that athletes will go to great lengths to keep maintain their status. They are willing to live with the deception of drug use until they get caught. Big paychecks and pride feed the ugly beast of steroid abuse. The only answer is to monitor and test professional athletes on a regular basis to insure that the integrity of sport is never tainted. It is important that future athletes succeed because of a strong work ethic rather than chemicals.

I am a great fan of all sports, and I admire the spirit of competition. I would like to believe that performance-enhancing drugs are not being used. Yet because of what is at stake and the nature of the business, it is likely they are being used, and for this reason drug use among athletes needs to be strictly monitored.
 
 Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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