By Ken Reed
I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful conversation with the great sportswriter Frank Deford the other day. One of our topics was “What’s the biggest issue in sports today?”. Deford believes drugs, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), are sports biggest challenge.
“Performance-enhancing drugs are a threat to every sport,” said Deford.
He makes a great point. Very few contemporary sports issues impact every sport the way PEDs do.
Recently, there has been a growing movement to give up on PED enforcement. The reasoning is that it’s too hard to catch all the cheaters. They’re always one step ahead of the enforcement police. We can’t test for every PED. Testing technology can’t keep up with cheating technology. So, let’s let them do what they will.
I couldn’t disagree more vehemently.
As I wrote in a recent post, “Those arguing “let them do what they will” miss the whole point of sports, the essence of the concept of sportsmanship: fair, natural competition between athletes who bring out the best in each other. Athletes who dope bring out the worst in themselves and their fellow competitors. By using PEDs, these athletes put extreme pressure on fair-minded competitors to cheat in order to remain competitive.
“There’s more and more money in sports these days and that money severely tests the ethics of today’s elite athletes. Greed and the WAAC (win-at-all-costs) mentality have become more prevalent. But we have a choice, either everything goes or we do what needs to be done to make our sports as fair, natural and healthy as possible. If we let anything go in sports when it comes to doping, the health of athletes will be jeopardized, from the pros down to the youth level. Moreover, the foundational values that make sports so compelling to play and watch will be imperiled.”
Jonathan Vaughters, a former professional cyclist and admitted doper, agrees. He believes we must do all we can do to eliminate doping and PEDs. In a terrific op-ed column in The New York Times, Vaughters wrote, “I chose to lie over killing my dream. I chose to dope. I am sorry for that decision and I deeply regret it … I wasn’t hellbent on cheating; I hated it, but I was ambitious, a trait we, as a society, generally admire … think about the talented athletes who did make the right choice and walked away. They were punished for following their moral compass and being left behind. How do they reconcile the loss of their dream? It was stolen from them.
“Let’s put our effort and resources into making sport fair, so that no athlete faces this decision ever again. We put so much emotion into marketing and idolizing athletes, let’s put that same zeal into giving them what they really want: the ability to live their dreams without compromising their morals.”
With the Hall of Fame set to announce its new inductees this week, and players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens on the ballot, some confused and frustrated writers and fans are throwing up their arms and saying, “No mas! I surrender! Let them do what they will!”
That’s the wrong approach. To save our sports — and our athletes — doping and PEDs must be attacked with more vigilance than ever.
If sport’s not about fair, honest and healthy competition — and yes, sportsmanship — than it is no longer sport.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #32 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Prolific Author Joe Posnanski Joins the Show – Posnanski is one of America’s best sportswriters and has twice been named the best sports columnist in America by the Associated Press Sports Editors. We chat about his new book, “Why We Love Baseball,” his new Substack newsletter called Joe Blogs, and we cover topics including how baseball treats its fans, MLB’s numerous rule changes this past season, how the sport can become more fan-friendly, the greatness of Negro Leagues champion Buck O’Neil, and much more.
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Episode #31 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Foul Ball Safety Is Still an Important Issue at Ballparks – Our guests are Jordan Skopp, founder of FoulBallSafety.com and Greg Wilkowski, a Chicago based attorney. We discuss the historical problem of foul balls injuring fans and why some teams are still hesitant to put up protective netting in some minor league and college baseball parks.
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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