Sports play a role that surpasses simple entertainment. International competitions like the Olympics or the World Cup showcase pro athletes regularly pumping out mind-blowing acts of physical prowess, which ignite worldwide excitement and inspire our passions as fans and admirers. Children all around the globe are especially receptive to the allure of sports; many kids even model their dreams after the achievements of their favorite star athletes. It is at least disappointing then, especially to children, when favorite players are caught cheating the game.
Doping, or the practice of pro players using banned substances to give their performance an artificial edge, is more than disappointing. Doping sets a dangerous precedent for children, because it can teach kids that if their role models can cut a steep corner here, or take a shaky shortcut there, then doing so must be alright. It also demonstrates to these young and impressionable fans that the benefits of being (even temporarily) viewed as “one of the greats” outweigh the risk of being found out as a cheater.
Pro athlete doping is a widespread concern not just among crotchety old coaches but most fans as well. A CBS/New York Times poll of baseball fans revealed that when asked if the issue of steroids in baseball mattered to them, around 60% of respondents said that it mattered “a lot,” with only 9% believing that it “didn’t matter at all.”
Although the fan consensus seems to argue otherwise, you may come across a few trendy narratives that argue doping should be acceptable, because “everyone does it, and only a few get caught,” or maybe because “it’s a high-pressure environment, and to keep up, pros need every advantage they can get their hands on.” Reasoning like this coddles and invalidates athletes, ignoring the fact that, even without drugs, these are highly talented adults capable of understanding and weighing the consequences of illegal activity. It also fails to acknowledge that the true detriment of doping is not just how it damages the game, but the negative impression it can leave on the millions of kids who look to athletes as role models.