The admission by New York Yankee superstar Alex Rodriguez that he used performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers is just the latest in a sorry stream of admissions about the use of steroids by current and former Major League Baseball players. President Obama said Rodriquez's confession to ESPN's Peter Gammons "tarnishes an entire era to some degree." He re-stated the obvious when he said that drugs use by sports stars "sent the wrong message to the nation's youth."
But what is the message our children should get from Rodriquez? That steroid use is cheating, not only in that it gives the athlete an unfair advantage and thus hurts the sports he or she is playing but because it is cheating the athlete himself, denying him the chance to prove how good he actually is? That steroid use is dangerous? That steroid use is illegal and wrong?
All of the above.
Some news reports suggested that Rodriquez was prepared to repair his public image by helping to get the message out to young people about the dangers of steroids. If so, great.
But the sad fact is that steroid use is still rampant among high school students. There need to be more public service campaigns like the award-winning "Don't Be An Asterisk" public awareness campaign and more anti-steroid education programs for high school students, like the award-winning ATLAS (Athletes Training & Learning to Avoid Steroids), a program for male high school athletes, and its sister program for high school female athletes (ATHENA) (Athletes Targeting Healthy Exercise & Nutrition Alternatives).
But until professional athletes stop using performance-enhancing drugs, and, if they don't (I hate to be cynical, but I think cheating is never going to be completely eliminated from sports; some athletes will always be looking for an unfair edge), and until our children learn not to look up to professional athletes as role models (which probably also isn't going to happen any time soon, either), our mantra at YouthSportsParents and of coaches and athletic trainers everywhere has to be "Education, Education, Education."