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Don't sweat steroid use, because no one else does

It was a quiet evening at home. Just me, the television and a black, leather pouch filled with another cycle of my favorite steroids.

As I recall, this was around the time I heard the President's voice. He was earnest. He was compassionate. He was condemning performance-enhancing drugs as dangerous and, presumably, un-American.

I tell you, I darn near dropped my syringe.

Imagine my embarrassment. Here is the President, in a State of the Union address, no less, tackling an issue I assumed was below the radar.

For some reason, the President felt obliged to bring sports into his address to the nation. So maybe you expected he would blast the shameful extortion of public funds to build stadiums. Or that he would admonish male athletes for the high number of spouse abuse cases. He might have even addressed the woeful lack of chalupas in stadium concession stands.

But, no, the President chose steroids.

He worked it seamlessly into his speech, part of a segue between the war in Iraq and teenagers with sexually transmitted diseases.

If it seemed out of place _ and I don't imagine Pakistani leaders are debating whether Aamir Sohail should have been sacked as the national cricket coach so soon after the big victory against Bangladesh _ it is odd enough to at least be discussion worthy.

Why steroids, for instance, and not NCAA reforms?

Why steroids and not antitrust legislation?

Why steroids and not the growing chasm between corporate-style ticket packages and the common fan who is being squeezed out?

You see, steroids is the topic no one takes seriously. Not the NFL and its traveling pharmaceutical show. Not Major League Baseball with its don't-ask, don't-tinkle policy. Certainly not USA Track & Field, which would prefer to lose millions in funding rather than turn over a positive drug test.

Now, before going on, I should say there are some who do not believe steroids are an issue in sports. There are also some who believe My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance is, like, a totally powerful documentary.

Steroids are everywhere. On shelves in clubhouses. In high school lockers. In mail orders that show up whenever an athlete hits the redial button.

Steroids know no boundaries. The type of sport does not matter. The athlete's size does not matter. Even the gender is inconsequential.

Why is that?

1. Because steroids, and other supplements, enhance muscle growth. If the competitor in this locker room is willing to take steroids to get stronger and faster, the temptation becomes stronger for the athlete in that locker room.

2. Because steroids hasten recovery time from workouts or injuries. And if the next paycheck depends on an athlete's health, steroids become a small price to pay.

3. Because nobody cares.

And that, of course, is the clincher.

The President may have devoted more time to steroids than Social Security Tuesday night, but hardly anyone else is moved by the topic.

Athletes see it as an occupational hazard. Owners are willing to turn a blind eye. And it all works because fans are not outraged.

Oh, sure, if you took a poll, people would be dead set against steroids. They'd also oppose global warming. But they're not out shopping for electric automobiles, nor are they too worked up over John McEnroe's completely believable assertion he was given steroids unknowingly.

Mostly, you figure people wonder about the intelligence of an athlete who gets caught using steroids. Heck, anyone can go into a vitamin store and buy products that can mask illicit substances before an employee drug test.

The President presumably learned a thing or two about this business when he was running the Texas Rangers and Jose Canseco was acquired. Unfortunately, his chagrin has not been matched by former colleagues. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig essentially admitted he did not push for stricter steroid policies because he was not going to let it hold up a new labor agreement.

Thus, the penalties for steroid use in baseball have been ridiculed by the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency as too lenient. Which is amusing when you consider baseball did not even have steroid testing before this policy.

Baseball's system works sort of like this: Test positive the first time and a note is sent home to a player's parents. A second positive test could mean a 15-day suspension. And, by gosh, if a player is caught five times, he's either suspended for the season or hooked up to kidney dialysis.

So, yes, the President has a point. Steroids are a problem in sports.

If we just cared enough, we would see that.

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