My Case For Legalizing Drugs!
by John Romano
Like it or not, taking drugs is a matter of course in the United States. For any generation younger than the baby boomers, blazing a joint at a party is pretty much on par with having a drink. Exactly which drug leads to the use of other drugs is really irrelevant. The fact is, if you are inclined to use drugs, then you will use drugs– either for recreation or performance enhancement– there’s really no moral difference. Anyone who thinks there is, and smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol to boot, is a total hypocrite. There is no denying that anabolic steroids, and their accompanying drugs, have a tremendous positive effect on building muscle and burning fat, but the fact is that these same substances are illegal where most bodybuilders live.
However, when you consider the evidence and compare them to the drugs that are legal, there’s no sane reason for these drugs to be illegal. Somehow, the war on drugs has scooped bodybuilding up into the fold, and something has to be done to pull it back out and give the bodybuilders back their freedom to make choices regarding their own bodies. If you look at the facts, there’s undeniably a strong case to legalize all drugs and put the freedom of choice into the hands of the people where it belongs. America is supposed to be the land of the free, but it really isn’t.
When President Nixon declared war on drugs, it was criticized by Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman for the freedom it disallows. According to Friedman, “On ethical grounds, do we have the right to use the machinery of government,” [and the tax payer’s money], “to prevent an individual from becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict? For children, everyone would answer at least a qualified yes. But for responsible adults, I, for one, would answer no. Reason with the potential addict, yes. Tell him the consequences, yes. Pray for him and with him, yes. But I believe that we have no right to use force, directly or indirectly, to prevent a fellow man from committing suicide, let alone from drinking alcohol or taking drugs.” ….No wonder he won a Nobel Prize.
Friedman’s sentiments came over a hundred years after those of radical 19th century utilitarian English philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who’s famous essay “On Liberty” argued that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physically or moral, is not a sufficient warrant…….. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”
Clearly these two great minds understood the basic tenets of personal freedom, and it’s interesting that Americans were ultimately allowed these freedoms when the U.S. government decided the legalities of alcohol and tobacco. But what were they thinking when they classified the other drugs, specifically marijuana, cocaine, and subsequently steroids? Personal freedom in these regards were clearly usurped.
Let’s take tobacco and marijuana for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine that you’re a law maker and you need to decide what to do with these two plants. Bear in mind that they are both plants, having inhabited the earth long before modern man knew what to do with them. How it was even possible that a government could exercise its power on the recreational use of these two plants is no different than deciding the legalities of green tea. The notion is absolutely ludicrous. Nevertheless, one plant is physically addictive, carcinogenic, habit-forming and is responsible for tens of thousands of cases of heart disease, emphysema and cancer related deaths a year. The other is virtually harmless by comparison, non-addictive physically, and in over 100 studies, has shown beneficial analgesic, anti-asthma, and anti-glaucoma properties, not to mention the fact that there are no reported deaths from its use– probably because even the most ardent pot head doesn’t smoke 40 joints a day, but a two-pack-a-day smoker does. Which one do you legalize and promote the world over? The fact that tobacco is legal and pot isn’t is absolutely insane. The gateway to harder drugs theory is poppycock too. Anyone who smoked a joint in high school did so after smoking cigarettes in the bathroom or drinking beer out of a keg.
Has Nixon’s war on drugs thwarted drug use in this country? Those who answered “yes,” line up over there– the Brooklyn Bridge will be going on sale soon. An easy surf down the internet will substantiate the following statistics; the United States of America sustains 6% of the world’s population and we consume 68% of the world’s drug production. Nixon, roll over in your grave; we’re talking about a $60 billion market in the U.S. today. Imagine the potential tax revenues that the government could be earning. But instead, the U.S. government spends $40 billion a year of tax payer’s money keeping Tricky Dick’s legacy afloat. That’s what happens when law makers drink instead of smoke dope.
Furthermore, the drug war has had 35 years to corrupt law enforcement, encourage gang violence and spread crime, erode civil liberties, and endanger public health by making it impossible to regulate the quality of a widely consumed product. And, the problem is global. In the U.S. and in the countries that supply it, the attempt to wage war on drugs has had effects more devastating than the drugs themselves, including the following social anomalies:
Police departments rely on criminals to do their job. Why? Because drug dealing is a victim-less crime– the guy buying the drugs is just as happy as the guy selling them. Who is going to report a crime– the little rat who got popped last week? According to Friedman, the use of these “informants” generates an additional enormous expenditure for the tax payers to bear. These immense sums of money will inevitably lead to corruption– as they did during prohibition. The use of informants also leads to violations of civil rights of innocent people, to the shameful degree that forcible entry and the forfeiture of property without due process are common today.
And, like with most wars, there are POWs. According to the Department of Justice, In 1970, 200,000 people were in state and federal prisons. At year-end 2007, the total incarcerated population reached 2,413,112 inmates in state and federal prisons. The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 738 per 100,000 of the national population. American prisons are crammed with drug offenders who now account for roughly one in four of all those in state custody and more than half of all federal prisoners. Attempting to win the war on drugs is the reason the far majority of these people, including some bodybuilders, are incarcerated. Do you have any idea what that costs taxpayers on top of the $40 billion it took to put them in there? According to the American Corrections Association, the average daily cost per state prison inmate per day in the US is $67.55. State prisons held 253,300 inmates for drug offenses in 2005. That means states spent approximately $17,110,415 per day to imprison drug offenders, or $6,245,301,475 per year. And don’t think they will be better people when they come out.
To make matters worse, the US locks up more African-Americans, disproportionate to its population than any other country on the planet. According to Connecticut’s Director of Addiction Services, for every 100,000 American men arrested, 3,109 of them are African-American. Our closest Competitor in the race to lock up black men is South Africa. Even during its pre-Mandela period of overt public policy of apartheid, South Africa incarcerated 729 black men for every 100,000 men. Did you get that? We lock up over four times as many black men as the only country in the world that had an overt political policy of apartheid with an inversely proportional ratio of blacks to whites as compared to America!
The drug war bombs the inner city too. Crowded inner cities concentrate the population making it considerably more advantageous to sell drugs on city streets than country roads. Although, not all drug buyers live in the city, drug dealers do – along with the violence and crime associated with disputes between rival drug dealers. Dealers who only have a burgeoning market because drugs are illegal. Al Capone was to Prohibition what the Latin Kings are to the drug war.
If drugs are bad for you, the war made them worse. This period of drug prohibition has made drugs extremely expensive – relative to their production costs, even though street prices have come down – and of questionable quality. Drug users must consort with criminals and many times become criminals themselves in order to finance their habit. This whole AIDS spreading dirty needle sharing thing is a direct result of pins being hard to get, thanks to the drug war.
The DEA has put so much pressure on physicians who prescribe narcotics for pain, patients in pain are chronically under treated. According to the Federal Department of Health and Human Services, two-thirds of all terminal cancer patients do not receive adequate pain medication. Wouldn’t want a cancer patient dying a drug addict, would we? The numbers for non-terminally ill patients are surely higher.
Globally, the war fought here has a harmful effect on the drug producing countries. Columbia, Mexico, Peru and others have suffered the loss of thousands of lives, lost enormous wealth, and have had the stability of their governments undermined – because we have a drug war. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a market for imported drugs – there would be no drug cartels, and all treachery that goes along with them.
To employ Nixon ideology, however noble, to rid bodybuilding of drugs has surely done for bodybuilding what the drug war did for America. I’m sure you caught many of the similarities above. Already, not withstanding the criminal aspects, the illegal drugs used in bodybuilding have created their own set of evils, many of which do parallel street drugs. However, unlike street drug users, the greatest risk to a bodybuilder is still getting caught. But how did this happen?
In April 1989, an elite U.S. track-and-field athlete named Diane Williams presented herself before a United States Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, DC. The Olympic version of Joe Valaci, Williams spilled the roids out of the Olympic gym bag and told what would become a ubiquitous tale of steroid abuse among female track athletes at both the amateur and Olympic levels.
Hot on the heels of Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s media fiasco which saw him stripped of his 100-meter gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea, for failing a steroid test, her testimony, and the testimony that followed from other athletes and coaches, insinuated that steroid use was rampant among athletes of all levels, male and female. So inspired by these events, after the hearings Sen. Joseph Biden Jr., D-Del., (now Vice President Biden) drafted a bill which classified anabolic steroids as Schedule III substances, placing them in the same legal category as amphetamines, pain killers, various barbiturates and Benzodiazepines (Valium). The senior president George Bush signed the bill into law in 1990 creating the Anabolic Substance control Act, and history was made. Since that time the US sentencing commission has convened on two separate occasions, and both times raised the penalties for Steroid convictions. Pretty much gone are the days of straight probation for selling even just a couple of bottles of test. The new battle lines were drawn and now the fight to rid the earth of steroids has become another battle in the woefully pathetic, perennial, and continually lost war on drugs. The only thing that subsequently changed was that elite athletes became criminals – no one stopped using steroids, in fact the numbers rose.
Regardless of the new classification, which can draw prison terms of up to ten years, the fastest-growing group of steroid users in the United States is not professional athletes, but everyday body-conscious people looking for the social accolades that come when you’re bricked. According to a study conducted 15 years ago by Dr. Charles Yesalis, a professor at Penn State University and a world renowned expert on anabolic steroids, of the estimated 3 million people who have used anabolic steroids in America, 33 percent of those users took the drugs solely for cosmetic effects. Today those numbers are exponentially much higher.
Those millions of users also include those who have admitted to using steroids at some point in their career; entertainers such as pro wrestlers, including Hulk Hogan and Jesse “The Senator” Ventura, and actors such as Sylvester Stallone and former Mr. Olympia turned Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who, quite ironically, chaired President George Bush’s Council on Physical Fitness shortly after Bush signed Sen. Biden’s crackdown bill on steroids.
For the aforementioned, and a lot of other actors, athletes, sports entertainers, etc., performance enhancing drugs are more or less just part of the job, yet they get the same rap as drugs which are clearly recreational, making extreme physical prowess and the ability to recover as much a sign of illicit behavior as clenched teeth and dilated pupils. Think about that the next time you are at a pro sports event or an Olympic competition or a bodybuilding contest – the majority of those whom you have paid to see perform have committed felonies for your viewing pleasure.
In bodybuilding today those chasing Olympia recognition have no choice but to use drugs. The system has decided for them. Their individual conscience has been eaten by the group’s dynamic. The consensus is that bodybuilding actually promotes drug taking despite its clearly stated rules against it. Contract renewals depend on bodybuilders winning contests, or at least placing in the top five or ten. The competition is so great that bodybuilders routinely take extreme risks – not only with their health, but also with their freedom.
Certainly, the moral dilemma any drug taking athlete is faced with stems from the fact that performance enhancing drugs are banned by their sports federation and are also illegal to buy and sell. The wide spread proliferation of drug use in sports should indicate to some one at the top that perhaps drug use should be permitted in sports, thus availing athletes who wish to use them to competent medical assistance and real pharmaceutical drugs at a reasonable price. The fact that they’re not is a serious failing of the system because any athlete who wishes to exercise freedom over his own body and use performance enhancing drugs – for whatever reason – must do so under the blind eye of the medical community at large. The AMA, still to this day, proffers the notion that steroids are useless in bettering strength, performance and muscle growth! That’s obviously bullshit and it leaves athletes out in the cold with regard to their health by the very community sworn to protect it. I don’t know where doctors got the notion that they are only supposed to help sick people, except, of course, plastic surgeons. If you wish to exercise your freedom over your own body and have something augmented, reshaped or removed, and have a big wad of the folding green, they’re all over it. But, if you want to reshape your body and do it from the inside out, you’re out of luck.
In essence, the first step to allow drug use in sports is to legalize them. At the very least this would diminish the social stigma against drugs – which the law today helps to reinforce. Perhaps then this level playing field crap would diminish as well. With the exception of a very small handful of exceptionally talented and gifted athletes, there is only a level playing field if an athlete uses drugs.
Now, just a soon as the conservative, hypocritical, puritanical lunatics who make the laws in the US put down their Scotch and water and take a big long pull off their Marlboro, they will undoubtedly defend the decision to criminalize steroids because it is in the public interest to do so because these drugs, first and foremost, are dangerous.
As compared to what? Other legal drugs? Ha!
Each year, about 2 billion legal drugs are dispensed to people who rely on them for everything from allergies to diabetes and depression. But, in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researches found that adverse reactions to prescription drugs may rank somewhere between the fourth and fifth leading cause of death in the United States. (No one has ever died as a direct result of steroid use.) Dr. Bruce Pomeranz, a professor at the University of Toronto, and his team analyzed 39 studies conducted in American hospitals over four decades. The results were startling; of the 33 million patients admitted to hospitals in 1994, more than 100,000 died from toxic reactions to medications that were administered properly, either before or after they were hospitalized. Another 2 million suffered serious side effects. In other words, in 1994 more than 2 1/2 times as many people died from properly using their medication than died from AIDS! Did I mention that no one has ever died as a direct result of steroid use?
Dr. Lucian Leape of the Harvard Medical School paints a bleak picture. While 100,000 deaths is 100,000 too many, those represent just .32 percent of hospitalized patients. “When you realize how many drugs we use,” said Dr. Lucian, “maybe those numbers aren’t so bad after all.” Oh-migod.
Forget about alcohol and cigarettes for a minute, we all know how bad those are for you and I’m not going to keep harping on it regardless of what a travesty it represents, but what about junk food? If steroids and recreational drugs are illegal because they are bad for you, then we need to make junk food illegal too and take the war on drugs to Mickey Dee’s. The FDA recently stated that “obesity contributed to the deaths of an estimated 300,000 Americans each year.” In 1993, then Surgeon General C. Everett Koop stood on the White House lawn and launched a program called Shape up America! Koop called obesity “a major public health threat” and said it had become the nation’s number 2 cause of death behind smoking, “resulting in about 300,000 deaths each year.” The American Obesity Association echoed those same statistics. Obesity is also associated with increased risk of cardio vascular disease, certain cancers and diabetes. Yet, Americans keep getting fatter. By last count, 64% were overweight or obese. Yet, kids can still buy high calorie crap, but an adult can’t legally buy steroids to be muscular and lean. That makes sense.
Without a doubt, steroids, if taken under a medically supervised plan, in sane dosages, based on prudent research, would be far less harmful than just about any legal drug on the market. But because they are in fact illegal, a very unique set of circumstances exists that clearly undermines the athletes health. Because steroids are illegal to use for performance enhancement, and yet most performance enhancement is drug assisted, some of the best steroids have been taken off the market. Somehow the drug companies were pressured to do so because it became evident that only healthy athletes were using them. Dianabol, Finajet, Anavar, to name a few, are now only manufactured by foreign drug companies and sold on the black market, or by rouge steroid bootleggers. These bootleggers, many of whom are just graduate level chemists with a shop set up in Mexico or in some barn in the middle of Idaho, and access to the internet, are also marketing designers steroids. These are concoctions of hormones specifically geared toward bodybuilding, many times configured with veterinary ingredients. Some are good – really good – so good in fact that many top pros are their exclusive clients and the average Joe bodybuilder can’t touch his products. Unfortunately, this is the exception, not the rule. Just like during prohibition, there was bathtub gin, these days there are bathtub steroids of questionable quality, made with questionable ingredients – if any, some are just oil with no drug in it what so ever – and some are down right dirty causing illness, fever, infection and abscesses that sometimes need surgical attention.
The blind eye the medical community turns toward bodybuilding has given rise to self proclaimed experts, gurus, and informed gym rats, most of whom have a better handle on steroids than most MDs. Unfortunately, their knowledge is empirical and some guys come up with ruthless opinions that would have their charges taking inhuman doses of drugs far exceeding the bounds of safety and efficacy. If drugs were legal and if sport began to realize that they need to change their rules and allow drug use, all the athletes who use them – 80% by some estimates, would at least be doing so under proper medical supervision. Any cries of danger made by the medical community with regard to performance enhancing drugs is made possible only because they won’t help us. Steroids would be far safer to use if they were legal, but they are not because the US government insists on fighting a war it can’t possibly win.
Perhaps it could be argued, finally, that it is human nature to do whatever it takes to do that which one ultimately endeavors to achieve i.e., win a gold medal, set a world record, become a champion, even if doing whatever it takes includes cheating or endangering their health. Hell-O! The athletes of the world have proven one thing for sure – outlaw drugs and they will still use them. It’s time to change the damn rules, but we can’t do that until athletes get their freedom back and they can’t do that until the US government surrenders. How about accepting the fact that athletes will, and do, depart from the rule book- the carrot being dangled before them is just too enticing – and spend the time, energy and money used to combat drugs on providing the athletes who choose to use drugs accurate information, competent medical assistance and access to real, safe, pharmaceutical items. Why should drugs which safely boost performance only be indicated for the sick and the dying?
Like it or not, young athletes today are faced with the fact that drugs are part of sports, and if you’ve got game, sooner or later you are going to be deciding weather or not the benefits steroids offer are worth the risk of taking them. That is a personal choice, and for a lot of them the answer is going to be yes. That is never going to change, and in America, that choice should be free. We don’t need the government to protect us from ourselves, we need them to protect us from middle east terrorists. Legalize drugs and go fight a real war – one America can win. America needs to fight for freedom on all fronts, not just with those who oppose democracy.
The simple fact of the matter is this: Alcohol and tobacco are by far the most lethal consumable items on Earth, having directly claimed many times more lives than all the soft and hard drugs combined, yet these drugs are perfectly legal in the U.S. for anyone over the age of 21 to purchase. These two drugs also account for huge price tags on the health care system, abuse counseling, the justice system, and lost wages and corporate losses — no different, although probably to a greater degree, than anything drugs would cause. To say that other less dangerous drugs are illegal is violating the rights of anyone with a free mind in America. It has also turned many non criminals into criminals, most notably athletes. If there is to be equality under the law and the government has appointed itself our savior, then they should also criminalize tobacco and alcohol and take them off the market immediately. It only makes sense based on all their arguments against the drugs they now deem harmful and thus illegal. If the government won’t do that, then it is incumbent upon them to uphold the very tenets of freedom– those proffered by Milton Friedman and John Stuart Mill– and legalize the rest of the drugs and let people make up their own minds and hold themselves accountable. Then, America would truly be “home of the free.”