Posts Tagged ‘athletes’

“Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.” ~P.J. O’Rourke

A few weeks ago, I started our series on the importance of public image for athletes. A couple weeks ago, we dove into the NFL and its seemingly large turnout of criminals of all kinds. This week, we’ll be looking at how drug use negatively affects athletic performance. Although this seems like common sense, the numbers of athletes who use or who have been caught using steroids is rather large, especially considering the dangerous effects these drugs have on the people using them. While we could probably go on forever about all the various drugs athletes could take, in this post, we’ll focus primarily on alcohol and steroid use.

We’ll start with alcohol use because it’s familiar to most of us, whereas I’m just presuming that the majority of our readers haven’t taken steroids. Also, if you’ll remember, the last post discussed the most common crimes (particularly of NFL players) committed by athletes. According to a report from the San Diego Tribune 129 of 385 arrests made of NFL players between the years 2000 and 2008 were at least partially caused by alcohol use. In college, we are entirely aware of the effect that alcohol has on our social lives. Most college students, whether legal or minor, find ways to socialize with their friends with alcohol.
However, according to a bulletin in the UC San Diego athletic department, alcohol has negative effects on athletic performance. Some of these effects include intense dehydration, which in turn causes cramps or musculoskeletal injuries, fat gain (since alcohol has 7 calories per gram), and loss of testosterone in male athletes, as well as an increase of estradial (a form of estrogen that causes breast cancer) in female athletes. These were just a few of many negative effects of this popular drug. And, even more surprising is that a study done in Sydney, Australia actually shows that even drinking moderate amounts of alcohol after an athletic performance actually slows down the recovery time. I’m sure no one doing these studies are thinking they can control athlete alcohol use, but it’s definitely something to think about.
Next up is the use of anabolic steroids. Of course, steroid-use stories seem to be rampant in the media. Some of the pro athletes who’ve been caught or who have confessed to steroid use include Lance Armstrong,Alex Rodriguez, and Marion Jones. According to a study in Scientific American, it is anabolic steroids that are favored by athletes because of their promotion of muscle and tissue growth. (This is opposed to the prednisone often prescribed by doctors to cure inflammatory conditions).NPR reported a debate in 2008 about whether performance enhancing drugs should be used in sports. While opponents agreed that it gives those on steroids an unfair advantage, proponents of steroid use argued that drugs are given for various reasons in other professions, why not do the same in sports?
Well, I’ll tell you why (at least according to what I’ve read). Some of the negative effects of anabolic steroids include lowered sperm count in men, pain in urination, or a shrinking of the testicles. Women often see a “masculinization”. For example, they may see the growth of facial hair, menstrual cycle changes and shrinking breasts. Unisex reactions include acne, weakened tendons and even liver damage. One has to ask, is it really worth the risk?
And according to another study in Science Daily suggests that those on performance enhancing drugs are more likely to abuse drugs like alcohol, marijuana and cocaine- in other words, drug combinations that should not be mixed.
From a risk management standpoint, all signs point to alcohol in moderation, but no use of steroids. In the end, it’s just not worth it.
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“I am surprised at the way people seem to perceive me, and sometimes I read stories and hear things about me and I go “ugh.” I wouldn’t like her either. It’s so unlike what I think I am or what my friends think I am.” -Hillary Clinton

Public image is perhaps the most important thing for a professional athlete to think about promoting. After all, it’s obvious that this individual has the skills needed to get into the game. However, do they have the public savvy to stay there? This is probably the main reason I decided to pursue this very niche field. At the time, the University of Oregon was getting a lot of crap because some of the football team’s big names- Masoli, Blount, and James, were getting accused of starting fights, stealing, smoking, and abusing girlfriends. I myself, was as shocked as anyone else on campus. Here were good students and great athletes getting accused of these outrageous crimes- many of which turned out to be true. If you remember, Masoli actually ended up getting kicked off the team.
Generally, it’s not college athletes we see misbehaving- it’s professional athletes. Last year, Tiger Woods was discovered to have been having affairs with a number of other women. Just earlier this year, Brett Favresent pictures of his man parts to an NFL game host. Steroid use was really popular for a while, something that Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong could attest to. And athletes were also attracted to other kinds of sports… Michael Vick and dog fighting, for example.
And while I’m not supporting a free pass for any of these guys, sometimes I think that these crises could have been handled better.
For example, I remember watching how Woods’ PR team was handling (or not handling) the Tiger Woods episode and thinking that I wish I knew a better way to fix the problem. Sadly, it’s not an easy fix. It’s not like when an athlete is about to go pro, they have to take a class in college called Playing Sports and Dealing With the Real World 101. Although maybe they should…
This is where my desired career path and Competition Not Conflict merge. In my mind, I think that athletes should all get assigned to publicists or PR teams that are specifically trained in conflict resolution and even more so, get trained to handle conflict resolution with athletes specifically. Also, CNC is currently developing some conflict prevention programs for athletes, something that’s also maybe even more useful than conflict resolution or crisis management-type work.
Athletes must be taught, from a young age, that they are not invincible and that the rules of society do apply to them- maybe even more so than the average-Joe. After all, these men and women are role models to children and to society at large. Having a good public persona is essential to gaining and keeping strong advertising contracts (look at how many Woods lost when that whole fiasco went down). But athletes also owe it to themselves to maintain healthy and happy lives outside of their sports. Taking steroids has a huge effect on physical health, domestic issues have a huge effect on an athlete’s performance (again, Woods’ post affair interviews and performances can be examined), and getting involved in crime makes an athlete look like nothing more than an elite thug.
Sadly, there is no easy fix for this issue and we’ll be examining it in bits and pieces on this blog throughout the year. At the beginning of the term, I breakfasted with an old friend of mine on campus. She was asking me about my internship this year and I was explaining to her what exactly I wanted to do. An older couple at the table next to us interrupted me and we all launched into a long conversation about athletes and their accountability as citizens at both the college and professional level. At the end of the conversation, the woman took my hands and said, “I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. Those guys need someone like you.” I can only hope I can live up to what I say I can.
Next week, we’ll start breaking some of this down. Let’s start by talking about crime and athletes. Until then, cheers.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again. One of my dream jobs would be to get some really sweet job in sports public relations. I grew up around a variety of sports- from basketball to soccer to tennis to golf and thus consider athletics merely a part of life. Although I didn’t play any of these sports in particular (I did equestrian events), I remember all the different sporting seasons and wishing that I knew more than I did.

Sports seem to have a language all its own. Listening to my father, brothers and the myriad of other men throughout my life discuss Michael Jordan’s latest play, Edgar Martinez’s homerun or Roger Federer’s amazing serve confused me. Since I decided that that’s what I wanted to do, I told my boyfriend (who is quite the golfer, actually) that I really want to learn the basic roles of various players and the rules of the games.

One day, when I represent high profile players, I want to be able to keep up on the gossip, not to mention, it’s great summer BBQ conversation. So I am making it one of my many missions to increase my sports literacy. I want to know exactly what a line drive is, a first down, and birdie shot.

After doing a little bit of online research, I realized I’m not the only one without a clue about all the fancy, shmancy sports lingo. Luckily for all of us sports illiterate citizens, there are resources for us that exist. Some of these include:

1) Incidental Contact: Learn to Love Sports, a website that sells audiobooks detailing rules about a variety of different sports that are mainly targeted to women. Check it out.

2) Also, a kids’ guide is Ducksters.com, where children or practically anyone who reads it can learn everything they’d ever want to know about their favorite sport.

3) Finally, and this is something I’m trying to do more often, is to keep up with my college’s various athletic teams, as well as keeping an eye on ESPN SportsCenter and such. Ask someone to fill you in if you hear something interesting about a particular athlete or team and then just start keeping yourself up to date.

Obviously, like everything else, sports literacy isn’t something easily picked up by everyone. Just like learning a different language, some people pick up the grammar and rules more easily than others. However, you can increase your literacy enough so that the next time someone brings up the topic of the Cavs, you can just smile and nod and say, “Yeah, that was a ridiculous foul, wasn’t it?”