Steroids and Boxing

By Anthony Coleman: Over the past few years, Major League Baseball has been plagued by the knowledge that certain baseball players have almost certainly been using steroids and other Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). This past year, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s all-time home-run mark, despite overwhelming evidence that showed he was provided steroids by the infamous BALCO labs. Mark McGwire was kept out of the Hall of Fame because of the suspicions of his reputed steroid use (and there is no doubt in my mind he used them).

Finally, with the revelation of Roger Clemens being implicated in the Mitchell Report, sports fans have finally opened their eyes to the very fact that many of Baseball’s all-time greats were using illegal substances to gain a competitive advantage. At this very moment many are questioning if any of these athletes should even be inducted into the Hall-of-Fame. Meanwhile I’m asking myself another important question: how should I respond to Boxing’s own steroid problem?

Much like in baseball, it is an open secret that certain boxers have physiques that are every bit the product of a laboratory as it is to genetics. Take one look at the fighters roaming around any of the weight classes and you’ll see the overly-muscular bodies and you’ll know instinctively that these fighters didn’t develop all of this naturally. In fact it is probably worse in Boxing because unlike in the MLB, so many of our favorite boxers have been caught using steroids.

Certain boxers, even former pound-for-pound entrants- have tested positive for banned substances or have been implicated as being a user. To be fair, most of the boxers who were caught were given lengthy suspensions (or in the case of James Toney, actually stripped of their titles). However, while the punishments for these fighters are proper, we still must also question how we should view their legacies.

And make no mistake about it; the steroid users should have their legacies re-evaluated. They’ve broken the rules of competitiveness and fair play. Their actions put the drug-free boxers at a disadvantage and puts added pressure on them to actually use steroids and other performance enhancers. But most importantly, we need to question if these boxers would have been as successful if they weren’t using testosterone, insulin, EPO, HGH, and every other designer steroid you can think of.

While it is true that just being athletic can’t make a fighter great, athleticism is still an essential component for success in boxing (and if anybody uses the Rocky Marciano example to debunk my theory let me say this: stamina and the ability to Knock a fool the f-ck out counts as athletic ability in my book). If what I’m seeing in the ring isn’t genuine athletic achievement and simply a result of taking a needle in the ass or a ingesting a liquid form of Popeye brand spinach then it should be enough for the fans and the historians to subtract from the boxer’s legacy. In the next couple of years, both the fans and the media will probably be arguing about certain boxers all time pound-for-pound standing if they’ve actually been caught with these substances. It is that simple.

Of course some will claim that these drugs do not benefit a fighter’s performance at all and that the whole discussion is pointless. In my opinion, those who HONESTLY believe in this philosophy ought to be kicked in the damn head. Hopefully the trauma from that kick can spark some common sense and let them see the obvious. Of course steroids can improve a fighter’s ability! Steroids can improve a fighter’s speed, stamina, reflexes, and strength. To say your favorite fighter has nothing to gain by using these drugs is pure foolishness.

Personally, I don’t think that the incredulous view that some fans have about steroids isn’t a result of ignorance or stupidity. Deep down, they suspect or know full well that these drugs aid in the sustained excellence of certain fighters. However, they are behaving the same way that many baseball fans are acting: they are covering their eyes, mouths, and ears and hoping that ignoring the problem will make it go away. They don’t want to think that their favorite boxers may be just a façade, and in boxing where so many question the authenticity of the competition that may be a breaking point for certain fans.

But taking this approach doesn’t take away from the fact that the problem still exists and it is up to the fans and boxing insiders to blow the whistle and demand that the sport is cleaned up from this problem. If not then the problem will still be present and their will always be questions about the legitimacy of the accomplishments of Professional Boxing’s brightest and most brilliant competitors.

Article posted on 11.01.2008

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