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What can the sports world do for fans when a star athlete tests positive?
What can the sports world do for fans when a star athlete tests positive? (Photo: David Bernacchi)

Braun or Hogan?

"MVP tests positive for PEDs."

This now common headline is dreaded by passionate sports fans who are too often seeing their "heroes" knocked off their athletic pedestals and dragged through both legitimate and tabloid dirt for "cheating" at whatever game they are paid healthy salaries to professionally play.

I want to be clear that this blog is not about the Milwaukee Brewers' own, Ryan Braun's guilt or innocence.

In fact, I would not judge any athlete for their actions in possibly consuming chemicals that potentially cause violent mood swings, horrific acne, decreased penis size and lowered sexual prowess. Oh – or that enhance athletic performance.

I'm not here to judge the morality of this issue either. Whether it's right or wrong for these athletes to administer PEDs for whatever reason –
 to overcome injury, be faster, get stronger or hit a baseball from Miller Park to Mequon.

I can only imagine the physical demands placed upon a human body being asked to perform at such high, intense levels of athleticism for extended periods of time, year after year.

Heck, as a recreational fitness buff, I ought to own stock in Aleve, glutamine and protein supplements.

There are certain people out there who will do anything – including swallowing pills and injecting drugs – to achieve a physical standard or to push the limits of their physique.

Morality aside, professional athletes have a huge audience clamoring to see records broken and amazing physical feats. Fans want to see a game they perhaps played in high school elevated to theatrical heights. They want to see these "super humans" making sports "history."

And this is not about legality. Don't get me started on illicit drug use of any kind – street or prescribed. It's risky, selfish behavior that sacrifices personal connections, will most likely lead to problems with the law and endangers every aspect of the users' health and well being.

This is about finding a solution to the disappointment when a star athlete tests positive in a professional sports league that clearly bans performance-enhancing drugs.

The answer is already being actively displayed in the bodybuilding world.

There are "natural" contests where rules strictly prohibit the use of any illegal performance-enhancing drugs and athletes are meticulously tested and there are certain contests where it is blatantly obvious that the over-blown physicality on display could only have been achieved with pharmaceutical help.

Perhaps professional sports leagues like baseball, football and basketball should do the same.

Create a "natural" league where players must adhere to rigorous standards for staying clean and a "boosted" league where athletes can consume whatever they desire.

It would be an interesting experiment to see where spectators' attention would be drawn: to the athletes playing off sheer hard work, God-given talent and training, or to the more "WWE" version of their preferred sport?

Or do sports enthusiasts really care at all?

Do most sports buffs even consider pro athletes taking PEDs cheating? Has it just become a part of professional athletes' lives to take the risk of testing positive in order to meet the demands of their team, the expectation to perform at such an amplified level and to entertain the fans?

Do fans need to know how pros do what they do?

Could full disclosure, open communication, honesty and giving both athletes and fans the choice of playing/watching a "pure, unprocessed" league versus a "juiced" league be the answer?

If you had to choose, would you spend your hard-earned dollars on the spectacle of wrestling or the good, clean fun of "America's game" of baseball?

Talkbacks

badgerbob33 | Dec. 13, 2011 at 9:03 a.m. (report)

The funnny thing is Lindsay that those products you say you have stock in may contain some of the prohibited substances by MLB.

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EAC18 | Dec. 12, 2011 at 3:18 p.m. (report)

I think this is a great post about remembering the importance of the fans behind the sport. I know, personally, I would rather watch regular people doing things the natural, in all its potentially mistake-filled nature. I think the disappointment comes when you tell kids that they can be just like their favorite seemingly-super natural player, when in reality, that player is not naturally performing at all. Thank you for this insightful piece - I think your idea of two leagues is so interesting, and hopefully will remind many of why we love to watch sports at all!

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