Steroid epidemic’s roots in race, says columnist

In terms of subjects I would normally consider to be in the gray area of what is appropriate to discuss in this blog include that of race. Yet a number of mainstream columnists make this a common theme in their writings, including Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Jason Whitlock of the Kansas City Star.

Since blogging by nature is often about commenting about what others are commenting about, I feel I must call attention to a pair of articles that are running on written by Whitlock.

Looking for a fresh angle and someone new to blame for the steroids mess in sports, Whitlock lays a claim that is even wild coming from him:

“…the steroid epidemic was sparked by white athletes trying to keep pace with black athletes.”

The first article presents the idea amid an embarrassing wreckage of seemingly random thoughts. After some 2000 reader comments along with who knows how many additional notes sent to his personal email address, his follow-on article attempts to explain. While the second is more focused than the first, that fundamental assertion ties the two together.

Whitlock came to his conclusion by referencing his own experiences as a high school and college football player, a world in which he thinks whites and blacks alike bought into the “myth” that blacks were the athletically superior group. The use of the word “myth” is Whitlock’s own as this most basic point in his case is one the author states he personally does not believe.

The line of thinking goes on to assert that the families and coaches, predominately white, explicitly or implicitly encouraged steroid use and because of it, the majority of steroid users in the 1970s and 1980s were white. Whitlock believes this to have been pervasive in America simply because it is what he saw in his own town and college.

Only by the 1990s did the epidemic apparently become “colorless” in Whitlock’s words, yet the writer does not explain what caused it to encompass all races, nor does he provide any supporting data.

There is a huge Rose Mary Woods-like 18-½ minute gap in Whitlock’s story as to how the suspected moves of paranoid whites in the suburbs eventually managed to consume all of sports. He offers no hard or even spongy evidence of proof whatsoever, just his personal opinions.

For example, he did not speculate as to what drove the most prominent athletes in the granddaddy of all steroids scandals, BALCO, to use.

I am referring to Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery and of course, the most controversial of all, Barry Bonds, all black. As top individuals in their sports, track and field and baseball respectively, why did they start?

I can fill in the blank. It is all about the quest for money and fame and trying to figure out any edge possible over the next guy or gal who is after the exact same thing.

It has nothing to do with race and everything to do with THE race.

Whitlock offers his fix, if you want to call it that.

“The beginning of a solution remains the same. Pressure needs to be applied to coaches at the high school and college levels and coaches, management and ownership at the professional level,” the writer naively suggests.

Hasn’t he ever heard of the MLBPA and their peers? Does he not understand professional athletes of all types today have a level of independence that puts them above lecturing from coaches and team officials?

Still, steroids education in the schools and in the NCAA has come a long way since Whitlock suited up. Exactly what more in terms of awareness can and should be done at those levels?

As I see it, the best chance for steroid deterrence is through stronger testing and penalties which require the cooperation of all parties to be put in place. This needs to be a common and constant agenda in all of sports at all levels, as the target is continually moving.

Bottom line, how does the supposed origin of the problem having been race-driven 30 years ago have anything to do with Whitlock’s solution offered today? Exactly what purpose did playing the poorly-presented race card serve, anyway?

Like so many unsuccessfully trying to deal with complex issues, Whitlock simply reverts to what he does best in trying to make this black and white.