Off The Press

May 26, 2009

By Jim Feehan

Jim Feehan Press Reporter

Jim Feehan Press Reporter

The news hit me like a fastball to the ribs.

In February, Alex Rodriguez admitted to using banned substances from 2001-2003, citing “an enormous amount of pressure to perform.” The baseball star tested positive for two anabolic steroids and testosterone during his 2003 season while he was playing for the Texas Rangers.

My first thought was, why?

Why would someone imbued with so much God-given talent want to cheat? Players of marginal talent looking to increase bulk to hit more homeruns, I can fathom that. But not an athlete who arguably is the best player of this generation.I felt betrayed, somewhat like the street urchin who grabbed at the sleeve of Chicago White Sox slugger “Shoeless” Joe Jackson and asked him, “Say it ain’t so, Joe,” as he was led from court following his testimony before a grand jury in the 1919 Black Sox scandal.

“Yes, kid, I’m afraid it is,” Jackson replied of his role in taking money from gamblers to throw the 1919 World Series.

Ninety years later, the use of steroids and other banned substances is baseball’s newest scandal.

Now, A-Rod joins a rogue’s gallery of modern-day baseball miscreants that includes Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro and Roger Clemens. This band of jocks behaving badly sends a poor message to children.

If steroids can increase the performance of baseball players and other professional athletes, what could it do for say, reporters?

Would taking steroids allow me to better wade through flood-ravaged streets when Issaquah Creek floods? Would I be able to lift more sandbags in helping residents in need during a flood? Would steroids help me stay awake while elected officials debate during City Council and school board meetings? Would it allow me to scribble notes any faster in my notepad or allow me to type my stories any faster?

The answer to all of these questions is no. By the way, coffee does wonders to help you through long, boring meetings.

It goes without saying that steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs have some pretty serious side effects.

In a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from the University of Parma, Italy, reported that male bodybuilders who take anabolic steroids risk emotional and psychological trouble, sexual dysfunction, reduced fertility and an increased risk of a heart attack.

The study followed 22 bodybuilders who volunteered to take anabolic steroid pills or shots for two years while they were monitored along the way. During the study, the athletes showed a drop in their levels of male hormones, shrunken testicles, low sperm counts, enlarged breasts, lowered blood levels HDL-cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) and low levels of Apo-A1, which has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack.

The researchers also reported that athletes showed severe psychological symptoms, including emotional inconstancy, lack of motivation, apathy, depression, aggressiveness, paranoia, sexual dysfunction and family difficulties.

The study should give athletes another reason to stop taking steroids, or never start in the first place. Sadly, the medical advice will go unheeded by a growing number of athletes.

Later this summer, I will take my son to see A-Rod and the New York Yankees as they play the Mariners at Safeco Field. I’ll tell him of the fresh-faced teenager who belted homeruns and delighted Seattle fans a decade ago. I will also tell him of his fall from grace and how he’ll never be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Say it isn’t so, A-Rod. Sadly, you cannot.

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or jfeehan@isspress.com. Comment on this story at www.issaquahpress.com.

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