Pro athletes tarnish simple games

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

As a kid I broke my arm cart wheeling off the couch in my attempt to imitate the gymnasts at the Olympics.

If McDonald’s coffee has to carry a warning that “contents may be hot” then the Olympics should carry a warning “Caution do not attempt unless you are under the supervision of a trainer.”

One thing people at home shouldn’t try is steroids, but unfortunately steroids have become a part of the mainstream.

From Barry Bonds’ denial to Marion Jones tearful admittance of using, it’s hard to look at athletic achievements without wondering “Are they taking anything?” has a commentary posted about Dara Torres, the U.S. Olympic swimmer who, at age 41, just qualified for her fifth Olympics. It’s an achievement that should be celebrated for a number of reasons:

her age (admit it, 41 is considered old in the world of competitive swimming), the fact that she has come back from two “retirements” (Brett Favre fans feel free to insert your comments on retirement here), the birth of her child and two surgeries in the last eight months.

The author writes about her achievements and how they should be the feel good story of the games, but how use of banned substances forces us to look at any achievements with a jaded eye.

Torres is an open book when it comes to testing for banned substances and even volunteered for a program that tests athletes more often.

But Bonds and Roger Clemons have left sports fans with a sour taste; after all we were told their success on the field was due to hard work. While Bonds has admitted nothing, the asterisk that’s on his historic home run ball, soon to be on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame, is a subtle reminder that, clean or not, his career is tainted by rumors.

Track and field sports have been especially hurt by the use of steroids.

Former record holder Tim Montgomery is headed back to prison, this time for a fake check scandal, not the drug charges that already put him behind bars. Marion Jones, once the face of track and field, is serving her own sentence for lying to the grand jury about her drug use. Britain’s Dwain Chamber is trying to qualify for the Beijing Olympics despite a lifetime ban.

He’s hoping if he qualifies on the track Britain’s high court will allow him to compete.

What is this teaching our youth?

Florida, New Jersey and California are randomly testing high school students for steroids.

If it weren’t for the cost, drug testing would be mandatory. What is next, asking tee ball players for a urine sample?

As a kid I looked up to the Olympic athletes on television.

As an adult I wish I could still watch with that youthful innocence that so many athletes have taken from us all.

Heather Odom is a Sports Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. She can be reached via email at