It's Superbowl Sunday, so my thoughts turn naturally to steroids. The major league baseball scandals have made it apparent just how prevelent steroids are in professional sports. The NFL has not been aggressive in testing for steroids, so we have not seen too many players disgraced. Yet.
But only a very naive football fan would assume that steroids are not widely used in the NFL. Any time a player becomes stronger and more muscular in his 30s than he ever was in his 20s (I'm looking at you, Donald Driver), one cannot help but suspect steroid use.
But is that necessarily a bad thing? Yes, steroid use brings serious health risks. No, we do not want young players to feel pressured to start using them in order to compete. However, it appears that steroids are most popular with players over age 30 who are trying to maintain the physical abilities they had in their younger days and compete against younger players. Younger male athletes produce more testosterone, which is a muscle-building androgen. Anabolic steroids are a synthetic form of muscle-building androgen.
Why not allow steroid use for players age 30 and over? Presumably, they are mature enough to weigh the risks and benefits. They already have an established professional career, so they are not rolling the dice on a pipe dream. It's not much different from post-menopausal women taking hormone therapy. There are serious risks involved there as well, so it is no longer routinely prescribed. But there are still women who choose hormone therapy, under the advice and supervision of their doctor.
I believe that mature athletes should also be able to choose hormone therapy, if they wish. Many will decide it's not worth it just to play for a few more years. Others (particularly lineman) may find that the extra muscle mass will just wear out their knees more quickly. But a few may give us the best years of their career. Is that such a bad thing?