The short answer: too lenient for too long. But now professional sports are getting tougher on cheaters.
Alex Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 MLB season over allegations he used human growth hormones and other banned substances. Rodriguez – A-Rod – turns 41 this year – ancient by MLB standards. He is one of the highest paid players in the league. He is a man blessed with natural ability. But he juiced; like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jose Conseco and Sammy Sosa. According to one source, A-Rod juiced to remain competitive as he got older. He juiced to keep his edge. He juiced to remain relevant. Similar to Bonds, McGwire, Conseco and Sosa, he denied juicing until he could deny no more.
The National Football League – NFL –has the toughest drug policy for initial violations of the four major professional organizations – but only because the NFL season is considerably shorter than the other three. A first-time violation of the League’s drug policy results in a four game suspension without pay. The average NFL salary is nearly $2 million per year. The regular NFL season is 16 games. A second offense results in an eight game suspension, no pay; a third offense – one year suspension without pay.
According to the NFL Players Association, the average NFL career lasts just more than three years. The NFL contends the average career span is six years for those players who are on the team roster for their rookie seasons. Here is a recap of the other major sports organizations. Salary and career are averages:
|Major League Baseball– MLB||$3,386,212||5.6 years||162 games|
|National Basketball Association– NBA||$4,900,000||4.8 years||82 games|
|National Hockey League– NHL||$2,400,000||5.5 years||82 games|
MLB’s drug policy is 64-pages. A first-time violation results in follow-up testing but no suspension. A first-time violation of the NBA policy results in a five game suspension and mandatory attendance of the league’s drug program. The NHL suspends a first-time offender of its drug policy 20 games without pay.
Every major sports organization has a players union. The NBA’s union is the NBPA; the NHL’s is the NHLPA. As their names imply, these organizations have a vested interest in protecting the interests of their members. They can also file appeals on behalf of players who run afoul of their respective leagues’ policies.
The NFL instituted a policy on performance enhancing drugs in 2014. Under the policy, a player can appeal his violation and continue to play while the league considers his appeal. MLB’s policy makes allowances for all manner of appeals, including mitigating factors.
With the help of player’s associations and league’s appeal processes, players typically can stay in the game while under investigation.
A National Public Radio poll found over 50 percent of baseball fans were neutral with respect to how steroid allegations affected their decision to attend MLB games. Ultimately, we want our professional sports heroes to compete. We want gladiators. Until sports fans decide they prefer athletic integrity, the honest athletes will compete alongside the quick-fix, underhanded competitors.
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Written by Darren Fraser, Sovereign Health Group writer
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