Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Chance to Relax and a PED rant

Finally a break.

 
The home ground.

We’re essentially 1/3 of the way through the season and we are about to take a well earned week off.  VPS has played 10 games thus far, and our 6-2-2 record is good for 20 points and the joint top spot in the league.  That said, we’re only 4-5 point above 8th place so it’s a bit too soon to be putting our name on the trophy.  If I’m being honest, these first ten games really have not been the greatest soccer that VPS has ever played.  We’ve only really dominated one game (RoPS) and the rest of our wins have only come by one goal, some in borderline miraculous circumstances.  I’ll take the points though, and if we manage to continue at this rate then we’ll probably win the league.  But then again that’s a really big IF and the league still has a long, long time to go.  What’s for certain though is that we’re gonna have to get a lot better in every aspect of our game.

 

The last two games have been fun.  We won both and against Jaro we had a great crowd.  The Jaro game was especially nice because the atmosphere was in stark contrast to a lot of the other games we’ve played at home.  The fans were behind us from start to finish, and what do you know we got better and better as the match went on.  It’s almost as if our fan support pushed the team to improve itself! ;)  I took some video after the game, but I got just the ending of our two little celebrations.  You get the point though.  We were very happy to win.
 
video
 

I also got my first assist of the season so I was happy with that.  I’m a winger so my main job is to create goals, so in my opinion getting assists is more important than even scoring goals.  I hope to get many more as the year goes on.

 

The game against Mariehamn was memorable for only one reason: we won despite playing terribly and without either of our first choice center backs for 2/3 of the game.  Winning while playing bad soccer has kind of become a theme for our club (or perhaps a motif, for those of you who enjoyed English class in high school…I guess what I call English class would actually be Finnish class or Swedish class for most people reading this, but you get the point).  I would prefer that we played better, but I can’t really complain with the results.  Clearly it’s working for us and it seems we don’t need to dominate games to win, which is kind of good news.

Ball in the net against Mariehamn.  Jyrki scored and me and Anthony are happy!
 
If you're wondering what we were saying it went something like, "Keep walking this way so we can catch our breath."  I'm not kidding that's what we were actually saying.


I also got to see my good friend from Haka, Kris Bright.  We both kind of suffered through some really tough times in Valkeakoski and really only had each other (along with Nana Attakora) to talk to during that time.  It was great to see him starting and doing well.  Things aren't going perfectly at Mariehamn, but he's definitely having more success there than either of us had at Haka.  I also saw and spoke with a fellow Yank, my friend Monica Dolinsky.  We both grew up in Indianapolis with similar stories.  She was one of the top handful of soccer girls in the state and I was the same for boys.  We never actually spoke though until after college when we ended up in the same circle of friends.  Now our lives are mirroring each other again, at least in the geographical sense.  She was in Sweden when I was and now she's been in Finland the whole time I've been here.  I hope her next stop is southern France/Spain or something!  She plays on the top women's team in Finland so that's awesome for her.  She also gets to go home for six weeks this summer, so I'm a bit envious!
 
I don’t really have anything else to say.  At least nothing relevant to my life personally or to VPS.  Instead, I’m gonna go off on a bit of an off topic rant.  If you care to know what I have to say then by all means keep reading.  If not, then I’ll be back next week after I return from vacation in London.

 

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At one of our hotels, I watched a debate (from Australia, no less) about performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs.  Now before I go into my thoughts about it I have to say that I have never used any PEDs (at least nothing that is illegal.  I would classify anything other than food as a PED.) and that I don’t know anyone using PEDs.  I don’t think I would even know the signs.  The debate though kind of struck a cord with me because it confirmed in my mind something that I’d already been thinking: PEDs should be legalized.

 

When most people hear someone say this the first thing they think is, “Oh no!  PEDs are bad and shouldn’t be in sports.  They take away the integrity of the game.”  But think about that…every professional athlete takes one thing or another to enhance his/her performance.  I make protein shakes almost every day to help me recover and to increase the effectiveness of my weight workouts.  Protein is perfectly legal and has no side effects that I’m aware of.  Surely no one would say that I am cheating the sport of soccer because of my protein shakes.  So my question is, “why are steroids or HGH or whatever else people are using illegal?”  These are also performance enhancers that when administered by a professional have little to no side effects.  Steroids can give you man-boobs?  Well I see man-boobs every single day so it must not be that awful.  I haven’t done a ton of research, but as far as I know, steroids and HGH have no devastating effects when taken properly.  If you don’t believe that, then explain to me why we give steroids to little kids who have asthma?  Or why steroids are in every hospital in the advanced world?  Every professional athlete would have equal access to these drugs, and if given by doctors then the risk would be minimal.

 

Speaking of risk to athletes, I don’t understand what argument can be made against PEDs that can’t be countered by an argument of things that athletes ARE allowed to do.  For instance if I break my leg tomorrow, I can go to the hospital and get a cocktail of drugs, use state-of-the-art technology and have surgery.  I’ll be back on the field in 5-6 weeks.  Is this natural?  Are the things that doctors would do to heal me not performance enhancing in a way that the body could never possibly do?  Then why isn’t leg surgery illegal?  I would guess there’s a better likelihood of me dying from complications from a leg surgery than from taking FDA-approved steroids on a monitored schedule.

 

The last argument against PEDs and the one that it’s opponents always fall back on because of its emotional appeal is the idea that PEDs ruin the essence of fair competition.  That sport exists to push the body to the limit and reward excellence.  For me, this is the worst argument of all.  Lance Armstrong used PEDs, but he still got his ass on that bike after having cancer and rode it across an entire country uphill.  I would bet that no one reading this blog could match what Armstrong did no matter what kind of steroids they had access to.  Armstrong is still a dick and a bad guy all-around it seems, but in my opinion that has nothing to do with the drugs.  That has to do with his over-the-top competitiveness and pressure to succeed.  The same applies to Barry Bonds, a former American baseball player who never tested positive for PEDs, but surely used them.  Steroids might have helped him gain strength, but there were plenty of guys in MLB that were stronger than Bonds and never hit half as many home runs.  There was clearly hard work and skill involved.  These athletes may have cheated, but only because the rules are stupid.  Armstrong and Bonds were both super athletes before they took PEDs, and both are healthy adults now after taking them.  So why are they so bad?  And before you answer that, consider that Lionel Messi took Human Growth Hormone (HGH) from the time he moved to Barcelona at age 12 until some time recently.  HGH is a banned substance, but since it’s a drug that mimics naturally occurring hormones there is no way to test for it.  Plus I’m sure he stopped taking them before he became a member of the FC Barcelona first team.  Messi is (rightfully) celebrated as a hero, even though he did effectively the exact same thing as Barry Bonds, who is a villain.  There’s a reason why Lionel Messi, who is 5’ 5” tall, has legs like a freaking elephant.  And it’s his inhumanly strong legs which give him his inhuman acceleration and agility.  I would argue that Messi’s athleticism is due in large part to HGH.  He was a great athlete who became the best soccer player in the world thanks in part to PEDs.  No one though would argue that Messi has cheated or that he has become the world’s best player because of PEDs alone.  So doesn’t that kill the argument that taking PEDs ruins the essence of sport?  Did Lionel Messi not work incredibly hard to get where he is?  And has he ruined the game?  Of course not.  But how much more fun would soccer be to watch if there were 25 other Lionel Messis?  How great could Michael Owen have been if he was able to use steroids to recover from all those injuries and HGH to prevent more from happening?  How much better would it be for fans if the greatest players could all play until 40?  These are not just hypothetical questions; they are the reality if we just removed the taboo of PEDs.  Science is at a point where taking things to improve performance are as common as lifting weights or running sprints.  You don’t like PEDs?  Well then stop taking your daily multivitamin or cough medicine when you get sick.  And don’t even think about taking Burana when you sprain your ankle.  That’s cheating!

 

The meme:

2 comments:

  1. So you're pitting protein shake against HGH and steroids?
    Everyone, rich and poor, have access to protein and it's really really cheap compared to the stuff that the "professional" athletes use.

    In small doses i don't think steroids have any downsides, but with those small doses you don't get the "up"-sides either.

    If PEDs would be legalized, every sport would be even more about the money than it is now. Where would for example VPS get the funding to keep their players pumped up on the new good stuff that must be reeeeaally more expensive than the protein shakes they get now.

    And what about the youth? Where would a young and upcoming athlete get a funding for example HGH administred by a licensed doctor?

    Well that wasn't really what i wanted for my first comment to be like so i'll end with congratulating you for a really interesting blog.
    I really like you're writing style and it's really nice to get some inside information from my hometown team.

    Plus i liked you're throw-in against Jaro, fast thinking and a great assist on a great goal. Keep up the good work!

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    Replies
    1. First of all thanks for commenting. I love hearing what people have to say and I just about always respond. Also thank you for the compliments!

      While I don't want to get too much into this, I will respond to the questions. I'm not putting protein shakes against HGH and steroids, I'm grouping them together. Not everyone, as you state, has access to protein shakes. I didn't in America in USL because the club didn't provide it and in Harrisburg I made about $600/month. I couldn't spare $30-40 a month to get a protein supplement. Is that an unfair advantage for VPS over Harrisburg City Islanders?

      Before you answer that question, ask yourself: Is unfairness wrong? Soccer already is all about money. Lionel Messi makes more in a week than VPS's yearly operating budget. FC Barcelona's training staff has a budget of over 1,000,000 euros a season. Would legalizing HGH really give a club like Barcelona more of an advantage over VPS than they already have? Or would it help ensure that players that are most important to fans and owners are as strong and healthy as possible? And isn't that the point? If we only allow things that all or most clubs can afford, then prepare to see every big player on earth get injured, as no one could play 50-60 games a season with a Veikkausliiga-sized physio budget.

      As for youth, I see no difference in HGH or steroids than protein. The type of idiots who would use it recklessly are using it already anyway. Why not legalize something that is completely safe when regulated? And to the funding aspect, I say only that being poor never stopped Brazil from dominating world soccer. And being rich never did anything for the UAE or Saudi Arabia or America for that matter.

      We're not talking about giving people poison, we're talking about giving them prescription medication. My assertion is simply that if the people who run sports didn't make them illegal, then no one would think twice about an athlete using steroids or HGH. The same way that no one here thinks twice about creatine, but if you're an NCAA athlete in America creatine is just as illegal as steroids and can get you banned for a year. Messi used HGH (as a kid) and no one cares, because he didn't do anything wrong or illegal. If someone wants PEDs and can't afford them? Too bad. I want to play for Chelsea but they don't want me. That's life.

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