Too Big, Too Strong, Too Fast? | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Too Big, Too Strong, Too Fast?

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Do fans and media really want to know how the players in American's favorite sport get bigger, stronger and faster at an advanced pace? We love to criticize the National Football League, commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners collectively over concussions and player safety, but we turn a blind eye to the players, and what their personal choices might be doing to the game.

Watching Twitter during Super Bowl week proved that point. Goodell was the subject of more than a few shots in the week-long buildup to the game, but how easily we forgot the words "Dear Antler Spray" that surrounded Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens. Lewis recovered from a torn bicep in record-breaking time to make it on to the field for his final run into the sunset.

Lewis might have amazing healing powers--or he could have used a banned substance to make it back on to the field more quickly. We will never truly know unless Lewis decides to write a tell-all book one day.

It is easy is to blame the NFL and football for concussions and player safety. The harder part is figuring out how much blame the players deserve.

If, for instance, Lewis was willing to use a product called "Dear Antler Spray" to return early from injury, we have to wonder what else he put in his body during his NFL career. Let's face it: Better nutrition and training aren't the only things producing the athletes we see on football fields today.

The NFL Players Association has fought against Human Growth Hormone testing since the two sides agreed to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement just two years ago. During that time, Major League Baseball has started testing for HGH, and David Stern announced during the National Basketball Association's All-Star weekend that he thinks the NBA could begin testing for HGH next season.

Now the NFL, which once had the best testing program in America for performance-enhancing drugs, is falling behind the other major sports. Baseball has learned from its PED scandal, and it looks like the NBA is trying to prevent any scandal before it starts.

As players got faster, stronger and bigger in the NFL over the last several years, we (fans and media) haven't even batted an eye. Even when NFL players are caught, we fail to muster the same outrage as we do when a baseball player is suspended 
for PED use.

Can fans and media truly look at the sport and believe all the players in the NFL are clean? Advanced cheating methods allowed Lance Armstrong to win multiple Tour de France victories without getting caught (until recently), so it is easy to assume NFL players are doing the same with weaker testing.

What can the long-term effects of PED use have on players later in life? Are they connected to concussions, and could it be costing NFL players their health after they retire?

Could player deaths like Junior Seau's be more complex than just playing football equals concussion, which equals chronic traumatic encephalopathy that leads to suicide?

We might not really ever know unless players are willing to come clean about their PED use (and possible alcohol and other drug abuse as well).

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