Growing up cheating

So Jason Giambi has finally agreed to come clean and talk to Major League Baseball's recently-found steroid conscience. The battle against drugs in sports is finally turning a corner.

Sure it is.

If Giambi says that he used performance-enhancing drugs, he can rightly point out that it was at a time when baseball had no steroid policy — it wasn't against the rules to do what you could to hit the ball harder and farther than anyone else. And, of course, you had to do what you could to compete and hang on to your very well-paying job in a field where you might be an extended slump away from losing your livelihood.

It's human nature to want an advantage, to look for an easy way to achieve a difficult goal.

A recent study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine contained some pretty scary stats. It found that more than one per cent of 11 year olds — pre-pubescent kids — admitted to using performance-enhancing drugs to do better in sports. By the age of 15, three per cent of kids made the same admission — and they were taking them more often than the 11 year olds.

Of those 15 year olds who admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs, 24 per cent said they were doing it daily. Forty-four per cent of the kids on drugs said they won an event thanks to the added advantage.

Salbutamol was taken by 45 per cent of the kids surveyed. The drug is normally used to treat asthma — and if you are using it as a treatment for that, you're OK. But if you don't have asthma, the drug can increase your respiratory capacity and give you an edge. The World Anti-Doping Agency says if your urine contains more than 1,000 nanograms of the stuff per milliliter you're a cheater. That's even if you're caught with it in training.

The next most-popular class of drugs among cheating kids was corticosteroids, which were taken by 10 per cent of those who admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs. Also verboten, according to WADA's list of banned substances.

The study found that boys were more likely than girls to take drugs to improve their performance. They also tended to put in more hours training, had lower self-esteem and showed signs of anxiety. They wanted to win to improve their self-image.

It may be the price we pay, when we're constantly reminded of the financial rewards that very few of us realize in victory.