Former NLL player Ted Jenner wrote a column on nllinsider.com yesterday about steroids and how nobody in the NLL is taking them. Before I say anything else, let me say that I have no proof, evidence, or even the slightest hint that any NLL player is on steroids, HGH, or any other banned or controlled substance. It wouldn't surprise me if the percentage of juiced NLL players is far less than the other major sports. But the reasons that Jenner gives for believing this are either naïve or blindly optimistic.
I don't think it would surprise anyone if 70% of all NFL players were taking some sort of performance enhancing drug. The number of baseball players taking them has dropped dramatically in the last few years, but Alex Rodriguez is one of 104 players who have apparently tested positive during 2003, and nobody believes that number has dropped to zero. I have heard no steroid stats about basketball, but that's a sport for mutants anyway, so nobody's going to look twice at a six-foot-ten two-hundred-eighty pound man with raisin-sized testicles. The NHL, for some reason, is convinced that their sport is clean, and that seems to be what Jenner is saying about the NLL. The question for the hockey and lacrosse people is: what makes your sports so different from the others?
Sure, being a big bulky mass of muscle (see Mark McGwire or the "after" picture of Barry Bonds) would not help you as a hockey or lacrosse player. But that's not what steroids always do. They don't make you bigger; they allow you to train harder and recover faster. Some allow you to retain muscle while losing fat. There is no reason to believe that lacrosse players wouldn't benefit from some use of these drugs.
From Jenner's article:
There is no room for steroids in the 'little brother of war'. It goes against everything the game stands for... But more importantly it's about having that sense of Zen and being in a sort of Nirvana like state. A clouded mind can only hamper a lacrosse player's ability to play at the top of his game.
First off, the whole "it goes against everything the game stands for" is nice to say, but a little idealistic. Does he honestly think that every single one of the 250+ NLL players has such a deep respect for the history and traditions of the sport that they wouldn't consider taking a substance that could make them perform better? This is almost laughable. I'm sure that's true for some, but for others, lacrosse is simply a fun sport that they are good at. If there's a way for them to get better, illegal or not, some are going to jump at that chance. There have been frightening surveys of young athletes preparing and hoping to make the Olympics — when asked if they would consider taking a drug that would guarantee them a gold medal but would also kill them within five years, the majority of athletes surveyed said they would take it. It's kind of a meaningless survey, since no such gold-medal-guaranteeing drug exists, but the thought processes of these athletes is clear.
Secondly, to my knowledge (and I could be wrong here), HGH and steroids don't have any kind of "clouding" effect on the mind. We're not talking about weed or LSD here. And give me a break with the "Zen" / "Nirvana" crap.
I think the one saving grace for the NLL here is that they don't make a ton of money, so the incentive to abuse your body or risk your health is far less than if you were making millions as a football or baseball player. Someone who wouldn't normally dream of taking steroids might change his mind for the possibility of a ten million dollar contract. The highest paid players in the NLL make about $25K a year. But there are high school students who are not athletes who take steroids simply to look good for the girls. These guys are highly competitive by nature, so who knows what lengths they will go to to give themselves or their team a slight competitive edge?
I'm not saying that NLL players are juiced, and I honestly think the majority of them aren't. I believe that the vast majority are simply great athletes and work hard to take care of their bodies without drugs. But honestly, it is highly unlikely that that there are no NLL players taking steroids. Jenner's deluding himself if he thinks otherwise.
Update to prove my point: The other day (May 2010), a Google search hit this article. The search was "what roids would i take to become better at lacrosse".