By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training Center, Tucson, Arizona
August 11, 2016
It’s kind of funny how things shape up in the sports world. This past week, one of the all time greatest players in all of Major League Baseball called it quits. Alex Rodriguez is a pretty polarizing character, both a villain in the world of sports and highly revered. For me, Rodriguez is just another example of how far someone will go to destroy their legacy, risking so much in what will decidedly amount to so little. It was put best by Doug Gotlieb when I was actually listening to his radio show (radio jocks are the worst kind of people you can listen…I’m pointing my finger at you Dan LeBetard). Rodriguez didn’t test positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) until 2003 or so, nearly ten years into his career, but with that one mistake his entire legacy was questioned. Just how long was he juicing? Up until that point in time, he was already the best shortstop in the game and pounded out 345 home runs, nearly half of the 696 he has hit in his 22-year career. He had already won seven Silver Slugger awards (best offensive player per position) and three Gold Gloves (best defensive player per position) and had just won his first of three MVPs. He changed baseball forever by signing the biggest contract ever, and no one really disputed the fact he deserved it. For all intents and purposes, he was gonna crush Hank Aaron’s record. But he tested positive for drugs, and got busted again right under the 2007 deadline when Major League Baseball finally tighten the reigns on all PEDs. And then he got busted two more times…sullying his career and joining the ever expanding party of PED abusing sluggers along with Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro (finger wagging guy), Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa (No Habla Ingles guy). It begs the question….why? Much like the people that wonder why Bonds cheated (allegedly of course) and was already a Hall of Famer before 1998 when he allegedly started taking PEDs, you have to wonder why being great simply isn’t enough. Money is the convenient excuse, but he had more money than small island nations. I sometime wonder why people become so hell bent on risking their legacy.
As I have grown older, I have become less naive to the idea of athletes using performance enhancing drugs. Baseball seems to have the most rampant usage, and the best indication just seems to be the simple degradation of said player. Albert Pujols, the best living slugger we have going right now, is most likely legitimate since his average and home run numbers have dipped significantly as he gets closer to 40. Ken Griffey, Jr. is highly revered for the same reason, primarily because his body broke down…like a mere mortal. Griffey might be the home run champ if had not gotten injured for five straight years. Right now, the new focus is on Prince Fielder, who will most likely start an interesting fight for the 96 million he is owed due to the fact he is being forced into retirement due to a neck problem (though, it was kind of his own damn fault really…a 5-11 man should not weight 275 pounds and expect to last forever playing a pro sport…heck he might be 300 considering how big he is). And we can’t really judge the forgotten member of the 600-homer club Jim Thome, who was just a huge meat eating behemoth that lasted long enough to hit 612 home runs. So in any case, I’m not surprised when someone gets busted. I have become so cold and aloof that I become numb to the sports where there is a lot of money on the line. I think Usain Bolt is the best sprinter I have ever seen, but how can I trust he is clean when just about every one of his countrymen has been busted for PEDs? It’s Lance Armstrong all over again. Heck, I don’t even trust my own country’s track and field teams since many of the competitors were “former” drug users that served their suspensions and came back just as great or better.
As a mere mortal of a man, unworthy of even standing next to these people I just mentioned, one can only speculate on why so many people do these sort of things. Call it hubris of whatever. This is not a condition that is equated to pro athletes either. One of the more interesting documentaries I ever watched was “Bigger, Stronger, Faster—The Side Effects of Being American.” The movie comes off as very pro-PEDs, especially under the explanation that most of the people who cheat are just average joes looking to be the strongest guy on the block. Too me, that sort of explained a lot, something that has been lingering in my own melon for some time now. I have a massive “fitness envy” complex. Right now, part of the problem is the fact I am not working out as much, for the heat and the humidity has been really bothering me. But the other side of the coin is I have been stressed a lot lately, and have been eating too much in the interim. Those are certainly two things that can overturn someone’s trajectory and add on some weight. I mean, how can anyone really compete and be better when you are trying to slop through 75-degree weather with 85-percent humidity? That was the situation I had to deal with on Wednesday morning, thinking the lower temperature might help. Boy was I wrong, and by the time my three mile run ended…I seriously felt like giving up on this whole running thing until the fall (which starts in late September for Arizona). That is how frustrated I have become with this weather, and it pretty much happens every year, like clockwork. So what is a guy to do? I could take some shady “supplements” you can find online and such and up my game a bit. Or maybe get my passport and go to Mexico for some “dog medication.” Whatever a person wants to do, it is perfectly up to them. For me, I want to stay as true to myself as much as possible, which means no supplements or short cuts. It’s not like I am tempted or anything. It’s not like I feel so small that I need that extra boost to make myself feel better. However, I would be lying if I said it never crossed my mind. I would be lying if I didn’t say I wish I could get a tummy tuck or something to help combat the problem of my extra skin around my body. I’m not lying when I say these are the daily things which shift around in my scattered brain.
This is the complexity of life we have to deal with in regards to achieving our goals within the grand scheme of fitness. So many of us are bamboozled by the ease of the situation, mainly because we never truly understand the sweat and hard work that is necessary to get the job done. I thought one of the best illustrations (and commercials period) was swimmer Michael Phelps’ workout regimen to prepare for the Rio Olympics. A lot of people thought he would call it a career after winning a few gold medals in London. But here was the kicker….the guy said he didn’t take the whole thing seriously and only walked away with four golds. I mean, if winning only four golds is reason to make you reassess everything you do in life and rigorously train like a crazy man, then that is certainly what may be necessary. Sure, some people might say he probably did it so he can continue to eat 10,000 calories a day whatever it takes to be an elite swimmer, but I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live that life…not with my eating problems. I think that is why I have a lot of respect for him. Of course, I have to reserve that respect as always because this is the Olympics, and the one thing synonymous with the exercise is doping and cheating. So yes, reserved respect. But right there, that leads to the other damn problem with PEDs. The lack of joy. The lack of pride.
Think for a second. I mean, truly think deeply. What has the rampant use of PEDs really done for anyone? Absolutely nothing in my opinion. I know I am a rare case and my logical mind might be different from the other 99% of the population, but it has taken the joy out of achievement from those that have worked hard for it. It has left a scar on the psyche of a lot of people. There was an interesting little Twitter war on my page between two guys, one that held out hope for the legitimate greatness of amazing athletes, and the cynic that just believed anyone with superhuman qualities was a cheater. I stayed quiet on the subject, even if I kept getting tagged in the damn back and forth and lumped in with the cynic, but I just couldn’t help but look at my screen and agree with him. It is an indictment on my nature so to speak, but I’m pretty sure a great many might agree with me in this respect. How can we take pride in someone when the specter of cheating is so rampant, so perverse and such a lucrative short fall for all involved that we can no longer enjoy athletics. Some people might even give up before realizing their greatness, merely because they believe that is what is necessary to achieve some shred of immortality. There was an interesting little feature I watched about the 2012 Olympics, where a former distance runner talked about the fact she kept losing to another runner that was discovered to be on EPO and other drugs. You can honestly see the broken heart, because the woman had stopped competing out of the idea that she wasn’t good enough, deciding to move on to other things. I can’t imagine that feeling, giving up because you feel inferior when in reality it was chemical help that allowed others to be better.
Every day I wonder what life would be like if I followed the flow of some of my fellow men. Drinking the massive bottle of pre-workout at the gym, drinking odd tasting shakes with a strange powdery make-up that is completely unregulated and poorly labeled. Taking weird pills that might be nothing more than rice flower and some taurine. It would be a strange life, living like that for the sake of trying to look better especially when that is a huge goal for me and much of my self esteem seems to rest on such laurels. I think that was what was behind the short lived surge behind Baby Boomers using Human Growth Hormone a couple years back, which was a slight “trend” that was probably nothing more than a few people doing their best to try and cheat father time. But it got in the heads of a lot of people, for my own father even thought it might be an idea worth looking into. Fortunately he said no, because we still have little idea what happens to people that are on HGH for long periods of time, much like the other various PED’s that many athletes use. And that is the final argument I really have for the moment….just what the heck is this stuff gonna do to you over the long term? The pro and con argument is we really have no idea, the only difference is the con argument ultimately helps the pro argument make a lot of money due to the legality of such substances. Personally, I don’t want to be some guy in his 60s wondering why the hell I used that stuff in the first place, so I have to battle the 38-year-old version of myself from getting mixed up in that stuff. So yeah, I have body issues and I have issues with people that say they would be anything to win. If anything, that is just giving yourself a convenient excuse to cheat, which no matter how you frame it, still sits badly with me. I know I wasn’t good enough to make it in sports and I’m okay with that. But that doesn’t mean I will go to weird means to try and recapture some of the glory I supposedly never achieved because I accepted reality at a young age. I ultimately think that is the biggest setback for people to believe.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.