Friday, February 22, 2008

On Steroids

One of the few benefits of being trapped in a hotel for ten days while contractors try to mop up the damage after a water leak was that each morning we got a copy of the local newspaper delivered to our door, which we gratefully carried downstairs and read while we ate our hot breakfast. (A shout-out here for the Wingate in Bozeman, the best-appointed and operated moderately priced hotel I've ever stayed in. And the staff could not have been nicer, more helpful, or more sympathetic to our plight.)

Even though we are newshounds par excellence, we don't subscribe to our local paper because we were spoiled rotten by five years of getting the Washington Post tossed at the top of our driveway, every morning, like clockwork, in weather fair or foul. The Post is, to my mind, the best newspaper published in the U.S. (yes, better than The New York Times, which is just so tiresomely New York), and the price for a subscripiton is absolutely unbeatable--77 cents a WEEK! My one serious quarrel with the folks at the Post is that they don't sell subscriptions to people outside the D.C. metro area, so folks like us, way out in the hinterlands, are forced either to cough up too much dough for a local paper that can't begin to compete, or else must rely on the Post website to glean what we can. Since we are also junkies of political news, you can guess which option we have chosen, but under protest, believe me. I'd much rather have that big pile of newsprint greeting me every morning than the stripped-down version I'm having to content myself with.

Be that as it may, during our exile at the Wingate, the Bozeman Chronicle did pick up one really good piece from the Los Angeles Times, written by a journalist named Dee Dee Correll, whose work you can bet I am going to be following from here on out. It was titled, "Yo, Cowboy! Is that bull on steroids or something?" and it appeared in the Chronicle on January 27. I have since located the original article in the Times under the less amusing headline, "Steriod suspicions ride into the rodeo," so I suspect that our local headline writers were having some fun. It's nice to know they're not without a sense of humor down on College Avenue.

Anyway, I invite you to read the piece for yourself:

The bottom line is that while at least one stock contractor has admitted to giving his bulls steroids to make them more aggressive some years back, there's no evidence anyone is dosing his bulls now, and for a very good reason: Giving a bull steroids can very shortly render him sterile. No contractor with the sense God gave a goose is going to make that mistake.

So I for one am not in the least concerned that the bulls that buck in the PBR are shot full of steroids. And although to my knowledge the question hasn't come up yet, I also don't give a damn whether the cowboys are taking steroids, either.

As I write this, congressmen and sports pundits are wringing their hands over whether Roger Clemens did in fact dope himself, and there is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the decline in fair play in American athletic competition. You can bet that when the Summer Olympics start up, we will hear more of the same. I could go on at length about why I think it's time to decriminalize the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but I could not say it any better than did Sally Jenkins, arguably one of the best sports commentators now working, in a column that ran in the Washington Post on October 10, 2007. It's titled "There's a legal remedy to the doping issue," and what she says, in a nutshell, is that steroids have approved medical uses, generally short-term prescription of short-acting versions, under medical supervision, for specific ailments. She contends that depriving athletes of access to those drugs can prolong recovery times and, yes, might even shorten their careers.

You can find Ms. Jenkins' column here: I recommend it to you highly.

So it's not going to worry me one bit if I learn that on the advice of his physician, a PBR cowboy took steriods at alleviate inflammation in a sore elbow or a ripped-up knee. I'm pretty sure that no serious rider thinks being muscle-bound or brain-damaged is going to help him stick to the back of a bull. Having just watched a season in which too many boys suffered concussions and came back to ride too soon, I think we can presume that Dr. Tandy Freeman, and the riders' own good sense, will prevail.

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