Professionals Need the Same Standards as Amateurs
This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on May 15, 2013.
By Nicholas Friar
There's an old adage: "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying." Whoever developed that idea not only lacked a sense of morality, but also lacked respect for sports. Cheating should not be tolerated by amateurs or professional athletes.
Last week, Vijay Singh filed a lawsuit against the PGA for its poor conduct throughout his punishment for use of deer-antler spray -- a banned performance enhancing substance on the tour. The Fijian golfer was "humiliated" after being suspended for testing positive on February 19, 2013 for the use of the spray. Singh says the situation was not handled professionally and he deserves retribution for the harm to his reputation. ESPN.com reported that there is now discussion of removing the spray off of the banned substances list because it only has minor effects.
Most of the world knows that at the recent 2013 Master's tournament in Augusta, Ga. Tiger Woods shot his ball off the flagstick, into the water. Woods elected to take an illegal drop, placing his ball behind his original shot, as opposed to dropping the ball near where it fell into the water.
However, when Woods took his drop, he placed the ball two yards behind the original spot. He was given a two-stroke penalty as a result of his actions, but it was not included on his scorecard at the end of the round. He should have been disqualified for signing the wrong scorecard. Instead the tournament allowed him to continue his play.
The Woods controversy adds onto the recurring theme of cheating in sports.
Consider the doping case involving professional cyclist and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong. An inspiration for so many because of his cycling success and his fight against cancer, Armstrong was stripped of those wins and banned from cycling because of his cheating.
As a Division I college baseball player at Northwestern University, I respect professional athletes immensely because I understand how difficult it is to compete athletically at such a high level. However, I have no tolerance for any athlete who cheats at his sport, especially those who use performance enhancement drugs.
Also, I think punishment and accusations should be based on hard evidence. The recent claim made by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy that Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz currently uses steroids is unfair. Although his story shows that Ortiz's "name appeared on a list of players who tested positive for PEDs in 2003," he has not tested positive since then, in a system that is far more efficient than it was when he did test positive for PEDs. Ortiz stated that he's been tested approximately five times this season.
The NCAA's policy for the first failed drug tests that involve the use of performance enhancing drugs is the loss of "one full year of eligibility and being withheld from competition for a full season." The second "usage will render the student-athlete permanently ineligible."
As a college athlete, I have been drug tested five times in my three years. Four of the times were on campus, the other one was over the summer while I was home. When they are administered on campus, the notification typically comes at practice the day before the test is administered, so the test administers can get the true read if an athlete is using any drug.
We have to wake up around six in the morning to make sure we don't sleep through our drug test because that counts as a fail, too. When you arrive at the field, you have to stay there until you can build up enough urine -- and courage -- to go to the bathroom in front of a complete stranger.
I have never tested positive for any drug, nor do I know of any student-athlete at Northwestern University who has tested positive in my three years here. However, no matter what there is the constant fear in my mind that I will still fail. There is no good explanation as to why I am nervous about these things, other than that it is another test I have to pass.
The NCAA constantly pressures its student-athletes to be ethical. There are punishments for athletes who use other drugs, as well. NCAA athletes who test positive once for street drugs lose a year of eligibility and a season of competition and they receive the punishment again if they test positive a second time. The NCAA preaches ethics to its athletes because they are sending the message that the sport you play is greater than any individual, and that we are expected to maintain integrity for the game.
The Mitchell Report, an investigative report on the use of drugs in baseball, led by former US Senator George J. Mitchell, was released in December of 2007 and exposed 89 players who were involved with steroids during the course of their investigation. Since the case, there have been 12 Major League Baseball players caught and suspended for using such drugs.
Included in the 12 players was All-Star outfielder Manny Ramirez, who now plays in Japan for the EDA Rhinos. He has hit 555 home runs in the MLB, the 14th most of all-time.
However, he was mocked out of the game after he tested positive -- twice -- for a drug that masked banned drugs. Although Ramirez's cheating was on a different level from Woods', there was no hesitation by Major League Baseball's front office to hand Ramirez a suspension.
Now, Ramirez's reputation is ruined. Does he deserve this treatment? Yes. He cheated the game, and deserved the punishment he got. Tiger Woods is not golf, Lance Armstrong is not cycling and Manny Ramirez is not baseball. But fans need to realize just because someone is the best at what they do, it does not mean they can disrespect the rules of their game or profession whenever they deem fit.
- Nicholas Friar is a junior journalism major and a varsity baseball player at Northwestern University.