It is 2013 and performance-enhancing drugs are as common in sports as overpriced beer and parking. All major sports have drug-testing programs designed to keep their athletes clean, but why are players still taking performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)?
The answer is simple: their careers depend on it. If someone told you that you could take this pill, be at the top of your sport, and get a contract in which you make ten million dollars per year you would do it before he finished his sentence. And if you remain clean somebody else won’t and will get that ten million dollar deal.
Baseball has recently implemented blood testing to detect for human growth hormone. They are the first major sport to do so, but players unions are fighting tooth and nail to prevent this from happening in other sports. It is an indicator that more athletes are taking PEDs than we think.
The one sport that has what I call “PED denial” is the NBA. David Stern has said multiple times that basketball does not have a steroid problem because steroids would do NBA players no good. It is true that a higher bench press or bigger biceps would not do NBA players much good but PEDs do much more than just make you look bigger.
You may recall the Lance Armstrong blood doping scandal. Blood doping is boosting the amount of red blood cells, which increases endurance. Is there a better way for an NBA to enhance his performance than by increasing his endurance?
Another thing PEDs do is speed up recovery time. In a sport where you play four games a week, it would be helpful for these guys to recover faster. So when Stern says PEDs would do an NBA player no good he is dead wrong.
The reason this is a major topic of discussion is because on Wednesday NBA player Hedo Turkoglu tested positive for PEDs. He is just the eighth NBA player in history to have a positive test. He joins Don MacLean, Matt Geiger, Soumalia Samake, Lindsey Hunter, Darius Miles, Rashard Lewis, and OJ Mayo. Not exactly an “A” list of players.
Is it possible that none of the NBA star players are taking PEDs? Of course it is possible but highly unlikely. The NBA is constantly accused of being rigged and David Stern’s credibility is in question. Last season the New Orleans Hornets won the lottery and got the first pick in the NBA draft despite having a highly unlikely chance of winning. This seems normal but it was interesting because the Hornets were owned by the NBA.
It is highly likely that a star player has tested positive before but it was brushed away by the NBA in order to protect their ticket sales and ratings. These players run up and down the court nightly and still manage to maintain their weight and muscle mass. They play back-to-back games regularly and maintain their energy. Stern is in denial if he thinks none of his star players are doping.
The NBA drug-testing program says that a player can be randomly tested but only four times per season. If that fourth test occurs in the middle of the season, that player can put whatever he wants in his body. Many steroid cycles are less than two or three months long and it would be very easy for a player to take steroids and have it out of his system by the time the next season rolls around.
If the NBA is really concerned about keeping their sport clean they would not have a maximum amount of times a player can be tested per year. It is very possible for these players and their nutritionists to find ways around the current drug-testing program.
The problem is the NBA does not care about keeping their sport clean. They care about television ratings, ticket sales, and the marketability of players. Actions speak louder than words, and David Stern is all words and no action.