This new series is guest blogged by Doug Logan.
Doug Logan was the CEO for USATF from 2008 until September 2010. He was also the CEO, President and Commissioner for Major League Soccer from 1995 to 1999. To read more about his background and involvement in Track, Soccer, Rugby and the Music industry, read my Freelap Friday Five Interview.
This is his 4th article. Click here for his entire series.
SHIN SPLINTS REDUX
May the Best Meds Win
During the Vietnam War, George Aiken, the U.S. Senator from Vermont, allegedly told President Lyndon Baines Johnson that he should just declare victory and bring the troops home. Although what he really said was far more nuanced, this simple and elegant solution is frequently heralded as an example of what should be done in the midst of an unwinnable quagmire.
The battle against the use of Performance Enhancing Drugs [PEDs] in sports has reached a similar enigmatic juncture. The Miami based Bosch scandal threatens to rend the very fabric of Major League Baseball once again. Some 20-30 active players, including Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera, are rumored to be facing up to 100 game suspensions. No one can name the last Tour de France drug-free victor. Commissioner Roger Goodell of the NFL last season suspended over 40 players for four games, the maximum penalty for first-time drug abuse. In golf, Tiger Woods used a Canadian doctor and his magic potions to assist his healing from leg injuries. It is not a well kept secret that some pros with the putting “yips” resort to beta blockers to calm their hearts. Kobe Bryant, the same Alex Rodriguez, and other elite athletes recovering from surgery have taken clandestine trips to a German clinic for “innovative treatments”. In track, at the World Championships in Moscow this summer, we are going to see several rehabilitated transgressors of PED protocols vie for a place on the podium. In distance running, the use of inhalers to increase lung capacity has become ubiquitous.
During my two year tenure as CEO of USA Track & Field, one of my priorities was to vigorously promote drug-free competition. I used tough language to criticize drug cheating, took on the supplement industry for not doing enough to eliminate tainted products, and I created a pathway for rehabilitation that required public statements of remorse and community service. Despite my efforts and those of other well-meaning sports executives, we were fighting a losing rear-guard action against the violators. The “dirty” laboratories in China, the Caribbean, and other places around the globe have always been months and years ahead of the testers in the development of new drugs and masking agents. Sports fans, in poll after poll, don’t really seem to care if their heroes are users. And, athletes, themselves, will not publicly or privately criticize or call out their peers and colleagues who are using, despite adverse competitive consequences. In short, this is a war without the possibility of victory.
There are additional contemporary factors that make our PED policies appear to be hypocritical. Athletes are the beneficiaries of many technological innovations that enhance performance. If you can afford to train at altitude, or have access to a hyperbaric chamber, your performance in distance running will improve. If you have a great coach, have the benefit of stipends to allow focus on training, gain admission at an elite training complex, are assisted by nutritionists, physios and sports psychologists; all will give you a leg up over your opponent. The quality of your orthopedic care and rehabilitative resources will enhance performance. Finally, there is an ominous development on the horizon, prophylactic surgery, which has the possibility of revolutionizing the industry. About a year ago in Baltimore, I had a conversation with Dr. James Andrews, the guru of sports surgery. Jim told me an amazing story about the problems he was having with mothers of 10 and 11 year old softball pitchers. He said he was being solicited by these moms to perform surgery on the healthy arms of their daughters to reinforce tendons and ligaments to enable their daughters to stress their arms without fear of injury. Think of the havoc these techniques will bring to sports that place a premium on strong joints. The bionic athlete lurks around the corner.
We now live in a society where there are medical solutions to just about any physical problem. Earlier this year I was plagued with inflammation of my sciatic nerves. My doctor ultimately prescribed a regimen of prednisolone, a synthetic glucocorticoid. On two other occasions in the past 20 years I was prescribed steroids as an aid for healing. In all instances the meds accelerated my recovery from injury. These protocols are common in civilian life. Ironically, as I peck away on this keyboard, there just appeared on my television a 60 second advertising spot for that greatest performance enhancer of them all, Viagra. Go figure!
Regrettably, I now conclude we should give up this fight and bring the troops home. Leave the regulation of drugs to governments and their law enforcement auspices. Dismantle the drug constabulary, the “ah dahs” of this world; USADA [US Anti Doping Agency], WADA [World Anti Doping Agency], and all the others. Have those able investigators and lawyers turn their attention to the apprehension of terrorists, pedophiles, tax evaders and secret leakers. If an athlete breaks the law, throw the book at him or her and fine them or throw them in jail. If not, let everyone compete and use their best judgment as to what is, or is not, good for them. Stop treating athletes like children or even animals. Stop requiring them to be available, day or night, 24/7, to pee in a cup or give a sample of blood. Most importantly, let’s stop making a morality play out of the issue. We must stop assuming that athletic success is accompanied by doping and lying and cheating. Elect Barry Bonds to the Hall of Fame for his on-field accomplishments and let judgment of his conduct be between him and his maker. Let’s take this piece of drama out of sports and concentrate on the final score, the bar, the tape and the stopwatch.
To those whom I excoriated for drug use while I was in a position of authority I can only say I did my duty to defend and protect the sport to the best of my ability. I have changed my views based on my re-examination of all the factors involved. I have no regrets and offer no excuses. My love for all sports has not changed and I remain fully engaged as a fan of all athletic competition and athletes. And, may the best man or woman win.