by Matt Meinrod
The National Football League took another giant leap last month in its well calculated and systematic decimation of its once admired sports league with the announcement that blood testing will commence during this year’s training camp to determine a baseline for future HGH doping guidelines. This news, along with the ongoing stories of concussions, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), and dozens of lawsuits from retired pros make this once violent, aggressive, and brutal sport something that could likely resemble a neighborhood game of two-hand touch—a painful yet not too distant reality.
Am I being a little dramatic? Of course, but that doesn’t mean the NFL isn’t becoming more and more known as the “No Fun League” when they made it clear that they intend on cracking down on HGH. The problem is that everyone who has a seat at the table is ignorant on the topic and science of performance enhancing drugs. When I turn on the TV and the pundits are talking about PEDs every single instance they lump steroids and HGH together in the same sentence.
None of these writers, reporters, and analysts has a clue that there’s a difference between the two. Obviously the nerds at WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) are out of the loop here too. Based on everything they’ve done from Mark McGwire testifying before Congress to the witch hunt that was Lance Armstrong clearly tells me these guys were picked last in kick ball, bullied by the high school football team, and definitely couldn’t pull girls in college at the local bar. So botching the facts on drugs in sport is par for the course with this crew.
The guys in charge— the NFL and WADA—can’t quite figure out that a kit of growth hormone and a bottle of trenbolone are about as comparable as a Schwinn bike is to a Ducati motorcycle. Both have two wheels and can travel from point A to point B, but when the rubber hits the road, they don’t have a thing in common, yet these experts put them in the same category. And I’m certain they don’t know that HGH as a stand-alone drug won’t do much in the way of muscle mass without the synergy of the accompanying anabolic steroids.
This one hits home. My college football career took a screeching halt in 2004 when I tore my ACL/MCL/meniscus and then a year later dislocated my ankle and fractured my leg. Would I have greatly benefited from the healing power that a few kits of Serostim or Humatrope could have offered? Of course I would have, and it may have even saved my playing career. In bodybuilding, we know that HGH is going to help us recover. It helps repair and regrow new cells in a process called hyperplasia. For us that means a bigger and freakier physique, but for the pro football player it means they can get back out on the field quicker. In the NFL, if the stars are on the field that equates to higher TV ratings and more money – no brainer, right? Wrong! And let’s not forget that HGH has a real medical purpose as it’s frequently prescribed to AIDs patients to help prevent muscle wasting.
Here’s the real kicker—when a guy gets hurt in the NFL they give them all kinds of delicious drugs. When I was playing in college and for many of my friends who went onto the NFL, we all took things like Vioxx and Celebrex pills, and Toradol and Cortisone injections. It was business as usual, given to us by licensed physicians and under no scrutiny by the media. It has since come out in the public eye that these drugs have caused severe long term damage. Merck, the maker of Vioxx, settled a lawsuit in 2007 for $4.85 billion dollars to over 27,000 defendants claiming the drug caused both heart attacks and/or strokes. Toradol is an injectable painkiller many football players are administered on game day by team doctors that will literally eliminate all pain from the body. “Hey coach, I can’t see straight and can barely walk.” “Get out there boy, we need you.”
But growth hormone is bad and will hurt the children – ah yes, how could I forget?
I’m not advocating we allow steroids to be in the NFL. That’s out of the question. These guys aren’t wired like the rest of society. You give a bottle of trenbolone acetate or blister pack of Anadrol to Aaron Hernandez and he might go out and kill somebody – oh wait…
What I am saying is that we actually look at what the drugs do before we vilify those who use them. If taking HGH can help a football player get back out on the field sooner from an injury, why is that a problem? The answer lays here: America is scared of PEDs. My grandma takes Celebrex for her joints, how can that be evil? Cortisone is something every weekend warrior has been prescribed when their shoulders can’t hold up after an awe-inspiring five set tennis match at the local club. But because big muscles are scary to the average man or woman who can’t stay on a diet and hit the gym five days a week, here we are.
When the naysayers are pinned against the wall with arguments like mine, they always revert back to their favorite line – “We have to save the kids. Pro athletes are role models, look at what happened to Taylor Hooton,” they cry. Please, this isn’t about protecting the kids; this is about money, lawsuits, and protecting the multi-billion dollar monopoly known as the NFL. At least in baseball the old timers are trying to protect their iconic stats and records, but the NFL isn’t MLB. There’s no such thing as rain outs, the DL, or the 7th inning stretch. The stadium speakers replace “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” with “Welcome to the Jungle.” The NFL really stands for “Not For Long” as the contracts are about as ironclad as a thin layer of Saran wrap. The average NFL career is 3.5 seasons and if you get cut from the team there’s no money guaranteed at the end of your road.
I wouldn’t worry NFL fans. After the lawsuits are settled and Bob Costas is retired from the broadcast booth, pro football will get back to normal: helmet to helmet hits, quarterbacks fair game, and bounties will once again be as American as putting down a $100 bet with your favorite online sports book. The NFL is one of the greatest entities in the entire world. In 20 years this will all be a distant memory and the tyrants that are the NFL team owners will continue to bully their players like 3rd world sweat shop workers making the latest pair of Nike shoes.