Over the past two years, I have taken it upon myself to speak out against Performance Enhancing Drugs in athletic competition (I.e. steroids, testosterone replacement therapy, etc.), and during my ever-evolving examinations and discussions (particularly with people who regularly use steroids), I have tried my best to leave my original notions at the doorstep, and to try to understand this issue with more of an open mind.
At the end of the day however, I have come to three major conclusions with regards to PED’s; one—athletes and fans can try to justify them any way that they want, it’s still cheating. Two—the longer the debate continues, the less people seem to actually care. And three—the use of PED’s by anyone who would dare to call themselves a “martial artist” is nothing short of disgraceful.
And it would seem that in a recent interview with MMA Fighting, UFC Legend BJ “the Prodigy” Penn, agrees with me:
“I think everyone is really of the same opinion as I am, if they want to admit it or not,” said Penn. “Stuff like this is not easy to talk about. We're talking about friends and colleagues of mine. They look at me and they hear me say these things, and they're like, ‘You know you're the only guy that doesn't do it, right?’ And I'm like, I know.
“It's a catch-22 for me. I believe so strongly in fair play and all these things, and on the other side, it's people you know and people you look up to—legends of the sport. They've been involved with stuff like that. I guess I shouldn't be so outspoken because I have so many friends and colleagues and so many people I respect in this sport that have gotten involved with stuff like TRT and hormone replacement.
“I always said no. I always believed that technique is what it was all about. That's why I always took on the bigger challenges. That's what jiu-jitsu is about. That's why they have the Absolute Division, so when you're a white belt in jiu-jitsu, you’re already practicing wrestling with bigger people. I always believed it was in the technique. I always believed the needle was not the answer. I always believed that. I still believe it today.”
Between the Lines Analysis:
First of all, I sincerely admire BJ Penn for placing his principals above his own popularity, and for standing up for what he truly believes in. It definitely shows a strong moral character on his part. I’m impressed.
Like BJ, I have known many people over the years who have used steroids—many of whom were very good friends of mine. They mainly used them for personal use in order to increase their bench press (insecure) or to look better at the beach (narcissistic), and honestly, I’ve never really had a problem with that. I definitely don’t respect it—never have, but I don’t have a problem with what other people do with their own bodies, just so long as it’s not harming anyone else.
In fact, it’s sometimes difficult to discuss this issue honestly, and to have a strong opinion against them without upsetting or offending a few “innocent” bystanders along the way. Needless to say, I’ve lost a few friends as a result of my opinions.
But such is life.
I’ve never once let the thought of some big, roided-out monster with hands of steel capable of crushing my skull, deter me from voicing out against what I feel is a much greater social epidemic for the youth of today, and let’s not forget—our future athletes.
The biggest argument in favour of PED’s is that they help to speed the “healing process” when fighters get injured.
This is true.
But please bear in mind that the number one reason why athletes, and especially fighters, get injured so often in the first place is because they constantly over-train and push their bodies beyond their physical limits. So of course they’re going to get injured, and of course the PED’s will help to speed their recovery.
That’s the main purpose of PED’s in athletic competition by the way—to heal faster, which then allows the athletes to be able to train harder—grow stronger—become faster. Training more intensely for longer periods of time allows an athlete to gain a physical advantage, as well as psychological.
And that, sports fans...is cheating.
Additionally, I feel that BJ’s concerns over the use of TRT are spot on. The Athletic Commissions can’t even monitor the use of steroids properly—how on earth are they ever going to control the use of TRT so that the athletes aren’t abusing these substances as well?
According to the “Fight Doc,” Dr. Johnny Benjamin...they can’t, and TRT should be banned immediately because of this.
Have we learned nothing from “Hispanic” Chael Sonnen or Nate Marquardt?
Will we as a society just continue to stick our heads in the sand like we do with so many other of life’s problems?
I know...I know...rule #2: Nobody cares anymore. Sure we like to pretend that we do, and we certainly love to argue and debate these issues back and forth, but when it really comes down to it, no one is prepared to say, “Enough is enough.”
There’s just too much at stake for the athletes, the companies that employ them, and the fans that love to bet money on them. Plus, let’s not forget, each and every time that science figures out a new way to catch cheaters, science will also continue to find new ways to stay one step ahead of itself in order to mask PED’s from detection.
It’s a vicious cycle that keeps revolving back to conversations exactly like this one.
At this point, shouldn’t PED’s just be permitted in sports, and then those who choose NOT to use them can just make that choice for themselves?
God help us all if that ever happens.
These are my opinions. If you don’t like them...I have others. Check them out at www.mrjamesryan.com