Last week I wrote about the controversy surrounding professional sports and the use of steroids. I took a fairly unpopular stance on how steroids are part of the evolution of sports, and records cannot be removed from the record books for suspected drug use.
I have recently had some "hands-on" experience you could call it, with the use of steroids in amateur sports and would like to talk this week about the growing trend of recreational steroid use among those outside of professional sports.
This past weekend I competed in the NPC (National Physique Committee) Northern Colorado Bodybuilding Championships in Boulder. While this was my first contest, there was no doubt in my mind that some of my competition would be using pharmaceutical assistance that I was not; that is the nature of bodybuilding. I was shocked, however, to find out exactly how prevalent it was and how open people were about its use.
First let me clarify a few things; while some shows are designated "natural" and "drug-free," this particular one was not. This means that there is no drug testing of any kind. It also means that competitors are free to talk about what they take and where they get it without fear of repercussions. It also means that in most of the weight classes, "natural" competitors, such as myself, were in the minority.
The concept of steroid use was also not that foreign to most of the fans in the crowd, who couldn't really care less what the competitors were taking to obtain their physiques. The crowd cheered the loudest for the biggest guys in the show, providing even more incentive for the competitors to find that competitive edge before their next contest.
What was perhaps the most mind-boggling aspect of this whole experience was the obvious drug use even among the teen class. These are the kids that you hear about being motivated to use steroids by watching their heroes, but you never expect to meet them. Young baseball fans watching Barry Bonds are one thing, but young bodybuilding fans are unfortunately completely different. Hopefuls in the sport of bodybuilding come to terms with the fact at a very young age that they will never become a professional without steroids. This is all an accepted part of bodybuilding culture.
Now, I have no suggestions or solutions for these circumstances. But I think we should look very carefully at whom our society has chosen to crucify in the name of protecting our children from steroids. Perhaps Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are not as big of a threat as we originally suspected.
For those bodybuilding fans out there, I don't want you to get me wrong either; I love this sport and I wouldn't change anything about it. I simply want to bring to the attention of my casual readers that baseball and football stars are not the only "heroes" out there who have an impact on kids' opinions of performance-enhancing drugs.
In the future I only hope that young fans of any sport can learn to make healthy choices regardless of what those they admire are making.
Ryan Chapman is a junior marketing major. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.