News Column

Players Favor Drug Testing, Fans Not So Sure

August 6, 2013

Alex Rodriguez and the 12 other players suspended by Major League Baseball for use of performance-enhancing drugs probably would like to have Charles Simpson running their world.

Simpson has no problem with players using PEDs.

The 42-year-old barber from Chesapeake was at the Washington Redskins' training camp Monday.

"I think, in terms of baseball, enhancement drugs should be legalized, but monitored," Simpson said. "There are going to be people who, even if they use substances like that, still aren't going to be great athletes. There are people who haven't been caught who still are mediocre players."

Simpson did have one caveat regarding use of PEDs.

"I think they need to separate records of people who use substances from those who don't," he said.

Monday's suspensions ranged from 211 games for Rodriguez -- the remainder of this season and the entire 2014 season -- to 50 games for the other 12.

Rodriguez has said he will appeal.

"If they allow it to happen (use of PEDs and human growth hormone), monitor the players so they aren't overusing them," Simpson said. "Players are getting bigger and stronger naturally just because of the training.

"A lot of drugs like that help you heal quicker. We'd like to see some of our athletes come back faster and stronger."

Rodriguez, Milwaukee outfielder Ryan Braun, who recently was suspended for 65 games, and the others suspended Monday probably want no part of Debbie Cooper as their commissioner.

Cooper, 63, and from Keysville, doesn't believe in 50-game suspensions in baseball or four-game, eight-game or a season's suspension in the NFL.

She takes a zero-tolerance point of view.

"I think if they get caught, period, they should be banned for life," said Cooper, who is a procurement officer at Longwood University in Farmville. "In all sports, really. In this day and age, they test for drugs. They (players) know they're not supposed to use them.

"If they try to beat the system and get caught, I don't think there should be a second or third chance. It's disrespectful to the sport, to their teammates and to the fans."

The National Football League tests for performance-enhancing drugs, and each season some players are suspended.

Punishment in the NFL is a four-game suspension for one failed test, eight games for a second failed test and a year for a third failed test. Players are not paid while suspended.

The NFL bans human growth hormone, but does not test for it. The league and the players' union, the NFLPA, are in negotiations to establish an HGH test.

"I don't want anyone to cheat," Redskins center Will Montgomery said. "I don't cheat. Once they get a good test that everyone agrees on, test us as much as you want.

"I've already been tested twice during camp. Obviously, guys don't want to get annoyed with the testing. But within reason, test us to make sure the game is fair."

Montgomery said, by his count, each player is tested at least four times each season -- at minicamp, training camp and several times during the regular season. The NFL also can test players out of season.

To a degree, he understands Simpson's thoughts that PEDs and HGH should be permitted.

"I don't know a lot about HGH," Montgomery said. "From what I understand, it helps you heal, and there would be benefits to it. But it's illegal, and we shouldn't be doing it."

Albert Lewis, 42, from Elizabethtown, N.C., and a barber like Simpson, had mixed emotions on the use of and punishment for PEDs and HGH.

"They knew the rules," Lewis said of the suspended players. "These things are illegal, so they should be punished. But 50 games ... and they're talking (211) for A-Rod, I don't agree with that.

"Suspend them for some games. But there are so many players doing it who haven't been caught."

Lewis was not in favor of HGH testing in football. He doesn't want to see older players at a competitive disadvantage with younger players.

"Younger players coming into the league now are stronger and faster than players were 10 or 15 years ago," Lewis said. "For some older players to stay in the game, they might have to get a little edge."

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision LLC, and a crisis communication specialist at the public relations and branding agency in Suwannee, Ga., understood the reaction of such fans as Simpson and Lewis.

But Johnson believes there is more to that reaction than acceptance of PED use.

"Fans are blase and jaded and don't have the same admiration for baseball players they used to," Johnson said. "Baseball has suffered bad hits, and never fully recovered. People don't have faith in baseball.

"They see it as, 'These guys got caught and baseball has to do something about it. But baseball isn't really doing anything to clean up the game.'"

An appeal by Rodriguez, Johnson said, could be a problem.

"The average citizen will see he's still playing, and think the suspension was window dressing," Johnson said.

The NFL is not a window-dressing league. Its punishment for PEDs is swift. Players can appeal, but if the appeal is lost, the players are suspended. Discussion over.

No doubt the same will be true if there is agreement on an HGH test.

"Whatever the NFL wants to do, whatever they think they can do to keep guys honest, to keep it a pure, honest game is fine with me," said Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen.

"Everybody's busting their butt trying to be great. We don't need anybody doing extra stuff. Hey, if you're not doing anything wrong, it shouldn't be a problem."

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