I love wearing my throwback jerseys, especially those from the Negro baseball leagues. These jerseys symbolize so many things: pain, suffering, success, fun. But most importantly, they represent hard work that the individuals who wore them endured so that other African American players could achieve the American Dream: baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Escalades!? I wonder how my now two-year-old daughter will feel about wearing the throwback jersey of the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball, Barry Bonds.
Despite his success in this sport, Bonds name and his records have been tainted with the accusations and stench of steroid use and his athletic prowess has come in to question. The clear and the cream substances given to Bonds by his personal trainer who failed to inform him of what they contained were actually illegal substances used to enhance performance. But why is this steroid thing such a big deal? Why is the home run record that Bonds now holds in question?
Simply stated, steroids are illegal, potentially harmful, banned in most professional sports and college, and usage is considered cheating. Among athletes on the elite level, some feel that if you are not using steroids, then you are not trying hard enough. Steroids can build muscle and increase an athletes speed and strength - that has been proven. The problem is that penalties are placed on athletes found to be using them, and if used for long periods of time the side effects can be embarrassing and potentially life threatening.
In women, the side effects of steroids include facial and body hair growth, male pattern baldness, deepening of the voice, reduced breast size and menstrual problems. In men, reduced sperm count, impotence, breast growth, and decreased testicle size have all been documented.
All individuals who use steroids are at risk for high blood pressure, strokes, high cholesterol, nausea, sleep disturbances, acne, increased aggressiveness, and mood disorders including anxiety and depression. Some of these side effects like the breast development in men and voice changes in women are irreversible. It amazes me that I get continue to get requests from athletes in my private practice for steroids.
Hip-Hop has had its bout with accusations of steroid use. LL Cool J was rumored to have used steroids to transforms his body into that of a Greek god. He has denied using steroids as well as plastic surgery to improve his physique in his book LL Cool Js Platinum Workout.
Whether it is to win at any and all cost or to look good and ripped in a shirt, success and vanity outweigh life and longevity in the psyche of steroid users. That is, until something bad happens like being banned from your sport, having a heart attack or not able to get it up when the time is right.
The road to success in sports is hard and education on proper nutrition, exercise, and rest is of the utmost importance. Commitment to the sport on all levels is the only way to be successful. Is Barry Bonds guilty? Unfortunately some believe he is, despite being the greatest player to ever play the game of baseball. My advice to him and any young athlete is to never take or rub something on your body without knowing exactly what it is that you are taking or rubbing on you.
Dr. Rani Whitfield is a board certified Family Practice and Sports Medicine Physician who lives in Baton Rouge, LA. He is affectionately known as Tha Hip Hop Doc as he uses music and medicine to educate young people on health issues. He can be contacted directly at DrRani@h2doc.com