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Does anyone care about PED epidemic in sports?

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Updated: July 18, 2013 12:25PM



When you tell people that the Tour de France likely remains a cesspool of pharmaceutical funny business and their response is that cycling has more stringent testing than all the major U.S. sports combined, it’s not a good sign.

It tells me that heads are still sand-encased and that the defense mechanism of those around the sport, even in the media, is still very much alive, post-Lance Armstrong. How do we watch the Tour now and not question, oh, I don’t know, everything?

It tells me that a lot of people don’t care about drugs in sports.

The recent news that sprinter Tyson Gay, who holds the U.S. record in the 100 meters, had failed a drug test shouldn’t have produced shrugs, but it did. So did the revelation that three Jamaican track-and-field athletes, including former 100-meter world-record holder Asafa Powell, had tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Of course, they were cheating — it’s track! Only a positive test by Usain Bolt will move the needle on the concern meter.

Before we roll our eyes at the insularity of relatively ‘‘obscure’’ sports, we might want to look at the fog that moves in whenever the talk turns to PEDs in our own back yard. It’s not just a matter of how prevalent the drugs are; it’s how we as a society have become so conditioned to them that we pretend they don’t exist.

No one in his or her right mind can look at the behemoths who soon will be lining up for NFL training camps and see the result of natural human development. Yet we observers look away, just as NFL teams do when one of their players fails a drug test and is suspended.

There is never an outcry when someone is linked to doping, the way there was with Armstrong through the years (though his being such a jerk played a role). The NFL player who is dumb enough to get caught takes his four-game suspension, and no one makes a peep when he comes back. Oh, he’s eligible to play now? Great, throw him in there.

If a player tests positive for marijuana, teams are concerned about his values. If a player tests positive for a steroid-masking agent, teams see nothing, hear nothing, know nothing.

Can a coach look at his offensive line as it walks by him and honestly say its muscle was built through legitimate means?

You see the truth only if you’re willing to remove the blindfold. Most fans these days aren’t among the willing. They enjoy the violent collisions and towering home runs, never mind the fuel source. They enjoy their obliviousness.

Major League Baseball’s annual All-Star Game took place Tuesday, and a PED scandal was out there on the fringe of things, largely out of sight and out of mind for most people. But it doesn’t mean that the Biogenesis investigation is a figment of someone’s imagination or that the Brewers’ Ryan Braun and the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez are uninvolved.

Given our propensity for looking away, we smile and nod appreciatively at the Orioles’ Chris Davis, whose 37 homers equal the American League record for the most before the All-Star break. That’s not to say Davis is a cheater. But given the past and present of baseball, shouldn’t there be at least a bit more skepticism about his accomplishments? I’m sorry if he’s offended by the suggestion, but isn’t it our responsibility to raise an eyebrow after Barry Bonds, et al.?

‘‘Superhuman,’’ Blue Jays manager John Gibbons called Davis, and it’s that kind of description that should give everyone pause.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig says steroids aren’t a sports problem but a societal problem. He has it backward. They’re only a societal problem because athletes became faster, stronger and richer through using them. Society, in turn, followed the shortcut.

The fans who willfully ignore what’s in front of their eyes might not be so cavalier if they had teenagers with ’roid rage and potential health problems down the road.

Ah, but I’m being a spoilsport. Nobody wants to hear about steroids anymore. People want escape.

Armstrong recently said it’s impossible to win the Tour de France without doping. And after the ensuing scoffs and defensiveness had died down, what was left was the sense that he was right. You don’t win a 2,100-mile, 21-stage race without some help, if you can get away with it.

And it’s impossible to believe in a clean sports world these days without being naïve or selectively blind. So which is it?



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