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Drugs, sports, and sports writers a bad mix

December 28, 2006

The hypocrisy of sports writers amazes me sometimes. Chargers lineman Shawne Merriman (SI.com)

On one hand, sports reporters and columnists praise the aggressiveness of pro athletes, but then condemn them when they go a tad overboard by getting into a fight on the field with another player or teammate.

In other words, get angry, play angry, just don’t fight angry.

They complain about fighting in hockey one day, then praise it the next. They both praise and condemn the “Vote for Rory” effort by hockey fans to get Canucks’ defenseman Rory Fitzpatrick into the All-Star Game (when he has no points and no assists) saying it is a great thing for the fans, while mocking it and requesting the NHL to put a stop to it next season.

Now, the writers may possibly reward a NFL drug policy rulebreaker with one of the league’s top awards.  And another competitor for the award is none too pleased.  

Jason Taylor, standout linebacker for the Miami Dolphins, is upset that San Diego Chargers’ linebacker Shawne Merriman is being considered for the National Football League’s Defensive Player of the Year award. because Merriman was suspended for four games this season for violating the league’s banned substance policy.

Merriman was accused of using a banned steroid, but he claims the failed drug test was due to a tainted supplement. He has denied any wrong-doing, but did not appeal the suspension.

From the ESPN article:

“A performance-enhancing drug is, obviously, what it is,” Taylor said. “You enhance your performance by doing that. You fail that test, I think it’s not right. It’s against the rules and ultimately I think it’s sending the wrong message to the youth in America and the people who look at this game not only as entertainment but also to learn lessons from it.”

When told of Taylor’s comments, Merriman said he tries to be a good role model, adding he has taken his punishment for the positive drug test.

“If I wasn’t having the kind of season I’m having, this wouldn’t even be a conversation,” Merriman said. “The NFL will always have the level of integrity. That’s what makes the NFL. In my situation, everything happened in an appropriate way. I sat out my four games, my money was taken away from me, my four games were taken away from me, and I came back and played my rear off.”

Merriman leads the NFL with 16 sacks in 11 games for the AFC West champion Chargers (13-2). He has four forced fumbles and has one interception.

“He’s always making plays,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the best young talents we have in this game right now as far as defensively, and he has had an unbelievable year. With that being said, there are certain rules and guidelines we have to abide by to play in this game.”

Taylor has been one of the few bright spots this season for Miami (6-9). In 15 games, he has 13½ sacks, 10 fumbles forced and two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns.

The reason I write about this controversy is because of the writers’ hypocrisy on drug matters.  Look at this recent sports poll result:

NEW YORK (AP) — Mark McGwire could miss out on making the Hall of Fame because of baseball’s swirling steroids scandal, heightened by his refusal to answer specific questions before Congress, an Associated Press survey showed Thursday.

Barry Bonds would get enough support to make it into Cooperstown, but he’s far from being a shoo-in, according to results from 155 Hall voters polled this week among the roughly 500 eligible.

Only 65 said they would vote for McGwire when he becomes eligible in two years or were leaning that way; 52 said no or were leaning that way and 38 were undecided.

Bonds received 105 votes for election, 25 against and 25 were undecided.

Look at the careers of Mark McGwire and Barry Bonds in baseball.  Despite suspicions, NEITHER PLAYER has EVER been suspended for drug violations. Both have had tremendous careers, breaking home-run records for a single season. But because writers have a cloud of suspicion around their exploits (and a tremendous amount of evidence piling up against Bonds in a San Francisco courtroom), writers hesitate to vote for them for baseball’s highest honor, the Hall of Fame.

Sports writers shouldn’t even consider Shawne Merriman for the league honor. He should have NEVER been voted to this year’s Pro Bowl roster. He has been proven to have broken the league’s rules on what its athletes are allowed to consume for competitive reasons, and should not be rewarded for it in any fashion.  Any player receiving a suspension for that amount of games for ANY reason should be excluded from eligibility.

And any sports writer that votes for Merriman should have his award-voting privledges revoked.  There’s no excuse for voting for a confirmed cheater.  If the NFL allows the voters to give Merriman the award, it should be ashamed, because its drug policy will have been proven to be a laughing stock.

If the suspicion of drugs can keep an athlete out of a Hall of Fame, the actual, proven use of drugs should keep a football player out of a yearly honor (and subsequent contract bonuses and so on). He should be scorned, not praised.

That is, if sports writers can decide what side of the argument to back: performance or integrity…

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