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Dirty little secrets

Pssssst.

Yeah you. Do you want in on a bombshell of a story which will no doubt rock the sports world to its very foundation?

OK, hold on to your socks.



There is a percentage of athletes – both professional and amateur – who use illegal steroids.

Shock.




Dismay.

Duh.

While this little gem may have been newsworthy a couple of decades ago, continued allegations of illicit steroid use by one high-profile athlete after another – especially since the hubbub over Bay Area sports supplement company BALCO and its troubles with the Feds over the past year or so – have numbed the previously wide-eyed, if not naive, sports fans to the whole sordid mess.

It’s a lot like finding out there’s a new batch of fighting in the Middle East or hearing that this is the year Chris Webber’s finally gets it together and leads the Kings to the title.

Been there, done that.

The horror stories of steroid abuse, and there are many, have done little to mobilize those in the sports world who wield the most power by far: the fans.

No boycotts.

No sit-down protests.

No nuthin’.

Various sanctioning bodies and league officials have gone on the record as to the threat doping poses to their particular sports.

They all point to the mechanisms in place – testing, suspensions and lifetime bans – which should work to weed out the bad apples.

Right.

Just like the way stiffer penalties for those non-athletes convicted of drug-related offenses have curbed the appetite for cocaine, heroine and the like, right?

Big-time cycling has taken a few to the jaw over the years with doping allegations, but none more potentially damaging than what a former assistant of five-time defending Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong alleges in a recently-released book.

She claims she was asked to dispose of syringes as well as give Armstrong makeup to help cover up needle marks on his arm.

Not only has Armstrong denied it, he’s suing.

Mix that with what perennial Tour front-runner Richard Virenque had to say to The Associated Press on the subject of illegal steroid use.

“We don’t call it doping. We say we’re preparing for a race. To take drugs is to cheat. As long as the person doesn’t test positive, they’re not taking drugs,” he said.

Can anyone remember former Denver Bronco and Los Angeles Raider great Lyle Alzado and his fight to the death with brain cancer, which he believed was brought on by years of steroid abuse?

“I started taking anabolic steroids in 1969 and never stopped,” Alzado said during the final days of his life. “It was addicting, mentally addicting. Now I’m sick, and I’m scared. Ninety percent of the athletes I know are on the stuff. My last wish? That no one else ever dies this way.”

Alzado passed away a little more than 13 years ago, but the lessons of his life, and death, seem to have gone largely ignored.

ooo

Keith Jiron is a sports reporter for The Union. He can be reached via email at keithj@theunion.com or by phone at 477-4244.


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