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Guest Editorial

Congress should stay out of steroids mess

BY DANIEL KLINE

Congress has more important things to worry about than whether pro athletes take steroids. Though this subject might get a lot of news coverage, it's a trivial matter that in no way needs involvement from the highest reaches of our government.

Politicians, of course, all have something to say about the horrible evil of steroids and the terrible example set by athletes. This inconsequential blather makes for nice sound bites and since nobody can argue in favor of taking steroids it's a no lose position for a congressman to hold.

Throughout the hearings on this issue and in the many statements released after them, the main issue pushed was the horrible damage steroids have done to children. These kids, we're supposed to believe, take steroids to emulate their big league heroes and that's the fault of the ballplayers. Nobody ever blames the parents who stood idly by while their child went from 98-pound weakling to acne-riddled, enraged super hulk - it's all Barry Bonds' fault.

Holding steroids hearings is an elaborate public relations stunt designed by Congress to show the American people just how much they care about our children. They don't particularly care about the dozens of them dying in Iraq each month, but the three or four every year we lose to steroid abuse - those lives matter.

The reality is that steroid abuse among high school athletes is a troubling issue, but not a major one. Certainly some kids experiment with steroids and a few take it too far. But on the list of things killing high school athletes, steroids rank way below drunk driving and probably only slightly below farming accidents.

Putting steroid abuse under the congressional spotlight takes that spotlight away from other issues. Steroids are illegal and neither professional nor amateur athletes should take them. They also shouldn't cheat on their taxes, break the speed limit or abuse prescription drugs, but there's no need for Congress to get involved in any of these issues.

If Congress really wanted to help kids - not simply get a lot of good publicity - they would tackle hundreds of issues before steroids. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, pollution, obesity, reckless driving and dozens of other things kill or harm a lot more children than steroids. Certainly the death count from Iraq, even for the month of July, involves more lives then steroids will claim in the next three years.

While Congress wastes its time drafting a steroid policy for pro sports it has ignored that the government already has the means to regulate this issue. Simply have the police crack down on existing laws. Doing this, however, would take resources away from stopping the actually dangerous drugs from getting into the hands of kids. Would you rather save a dozen lives from steroids or thousands from cocaine?

Evidence suggests that abuse of steroids probably leads to death in some cases. That's a horrible risk to take to be a better athlete and something that parents, coaches and professional sports leagues should eliminate.

Congress has a war going on, gas prices climbing to record highs and countless other problems that far outrank steroids. Let sports talk shows argue about whether the home run records are tainted and what impact that might have on kids. Our congressmen must stop mugging for the cameras and start solving the real problems facing our kids - the ones that you won't get universally applauded for addressing.

Daniel Kline is a freelance writer based in Connecticut. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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