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Shame on Us

The panel was promising. One guy's expertise was based on his having played in the National Football League for 12 years. The second panelist, a reporter, broke the BALCO story for the San Francisco Chronicle. The third was a Ph.D. who's been studying how steroids stimulate the parts of a rat's brain associated with aggressive behavior.

In splendidly brief, introductory remarks, the panelists made their points.

The former player maintained that coaches in the national football league are not pressuring players to enhance their performances through chemistry, because players attempting to do that might hurt their teams by getting caught and suspended.

The journalist pointed out that as a result of the BALCO story and the recent congressional hearings, more people than ever before understand that steroids are illegal, and that obtaining them and using them is likely to land you on page one.

The doctor discussed the damage steroids do to the liver, kidneys, and various glands, as well as their unpredictable and often nasty effects on the brain.

When they'd all finished, one student asked why Barry Bonds hadn't been called to testify at the recent congressional hearings. Another wondered whether a policy wherein a positive test for steroids meant a lifetime ban might change the behavior of pro athletes. Then, toward the end of the time set aside for questions, a large young man who identified himself as the captain of his high school football team stepped forward and asked, "If somebody who has all this information decides he wants to use steroids anyway, why shouldn't he be able to do it?"

A restatement of the question might be: "If I've decided that getting bigger and stronger to enhance the possibility that I'll play division one and earn a pro career is the most important goal in my life, why shouldn't I be able to act on that decision, assume the risks, and take the drugs?"

I didn't think of a response to that question until hours after all the panelists had gone home. But if I'd been quicker, I'd have said to that auditorium full of kids, "Shame on us that we've made a world in which that question isn't funny."

This program aired on April 8, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Twitter Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield has been the host of Only A Game since the program began in 1993.

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