With all the controversy and drama surrounding Performance Enhancing Drug use among professional athletes in everything from Major League Baseball, to track & field to cycling, it’s easy to get swept up in the daily parade of new revelations, suspensions and rehashing of old news. However, one piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked is life after the scandal. Often, these are professional athletes whose livelihoods depend on their performance in their chosen sport, which may help explain the desperate need to turn to steroids, testosterone, HGH and other known enhancers in the first place. After being caught for using PEDs, what happens to these athletes who made a career of being in the public eye, and who must now deal with the consequences?
The case can be made that the outcome is different for each athlete, even ones who play in the same sport. Take Alex Rodriguez and Jhonny Peralta, both Major League Baseball players who were caught up in the Biogenesis scandal. Like Rodriguez, former Detroit Tigers shortstop Peralta was handed a suspension, his for 50 games, as compared to Rodriguez’ 211. However, rather than appeal his suspension like Rodriguez, Peralta simply served his out and then went on to offer himself up as a free agent. While Rodriguez was facing arbitration hearings and fighting his team, the MLB, and the changing face of public opinion, Peralta was signing on to the St. Louis Cardinals for a four year contract for $52 million.
Some athletes are banned from the sport they have dedicated themselves to. Lance Armstrong is one of the better examples of this. Not only did he have to give up his career, he had to hand back all of the achievements he had earned, too. Years of work and sacrifice were wiped clean because his whole career is now under the shadow of suspicion that he didn’t do any of it without drugs to help. Some athletes will likely never be recognized for their contributions to their sports, such as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, who are arguably ripe for induction into the MLB Hall of Fame but may be kept out because of their link to performance enhancing drugs.
Some players, even though they’ve admitted to use of banned substances, such as Peralta, or golf’s Vijay Singh, continue to play. Is this a double standard? Why do some players seem to get off lightly while others seem to be targeted by the very sport they played for? It’s likely that unless Peralta has another positive drug test, he’ll be able to play out his new contract with no issues. The only question that remains to be seen, for him and all the other players who are now committed to playing clean, is whether or not they can play as well off drugs as they did on.