FANALYTICS: The PED Parallel Universe

In last week's column, I mentioned in passing that it might make some logical sense to legalize performance-enhancing drugs. I wasn't necessarily taking a stand—I just meant it as a talking point—but the comment has generated a bunch of discussion.

The more I think about it, though, the more it seems that our entire mindset on the topic may, indeed, be worth discussing. Consider this:

Let's imagine that we live in a parallel universe. In this parallel universe, it is accepted that every professional in every field is expected to do whatever it takes to be the best. It doesn't matter what means they employ to maximize their potential, be it advanced education, physical training, or changing their bodies to conform to the needs of the profession they've chosen. This goes for CEOs and data-entry clerks, policemen and street artists, roofing contractors and athletes.

In this parallel universe, any risk associated with these goals is accepted. CEOs accept the risk of high blood pressure and burnout. Data entry clerks accept the risk of carpal-tunnel syndrome. Policemen and roofers accept the obvious dangers associated with being the best at their jobs.

And it is assumed that professional athletes will engage in whatever training regimens are required, and ingest whatever substances are necessary for them to perform at the peak of their abilities.

In this parallel universe, fathers educate their sons on the pros and cons of every career path they might choose to take. For those who want to become fire-fighters or astronauts, they are taught about the benefits and risks of pursuing careers that, in some cases, require the ultimate sacrifice. And similarly, fathers can encourage their sons to pursue professional sports as a career, knowing that they may well be required to alter their body chemistry in order to excel at the top most level as an athlete.

And everyone has the option to reject the risk associated with a certain career. They can choose a different profession with a more acceptable risk level and engage in the other activity as a recreational pursuit. No expectations there.

But in this parallel universe, we assume from the start that every professional athlete is taking some type of anabolic steroid, testosterone, human growth hormone or amphetamines. Whatever it takes for him to be the best athlete he can possibly be. Those that don't are the exceptions.

But we don't need to travel to a parallel universe to find a career that is as equally glorified as professional sports and its professionals considered role models. And it is universally accepted that these people will do whatever it takes to excel in their field.

These professionals often have foreign substances injected into their bodies, and in many cases, undergo surgeries to alter their bodies. Many of them do this just so they can have a career in this profession. Others do this as they get older so they can stay gainfully employed. While these particular drugs and surgeries are deemed legal, it does not make them any less risky. Many of these professionals end up disfigured from all the surgery and drug use. And it's all accepted and in some cases, revered.

But we don't demonize actors and actresses when they have their botox treatments or get plastic surgeries. While sports celebrities take drugs to improve strength and agility, is it any less morally corrupt for entertainment celebrities to improve their appearance? It's all a part of being the best at what you do. Frankly, when I look at Barry Bonds or Joan Rivers, I find them equally grotesque. But they both represent their own embodiment of success.

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.