Should Christian Athletes use Performance Enhancing Drugs?

They’re called PED’s.

That’s the acronym for performance enhancing drug.  In a general sense, we’re talking steroids and hormones.  Specifically, I can’t list or pronounce all of the substances that are banned, much less where they come from.  They can be injected, taken as a pill, rubbed on as a cream, or mixed in a shake.

I will admit that I’m a former user of steroids.  Took the pills when I was kid to make my poison ivy go away.  And, if I ever get it again bad enough to send me scratching all the way to the doctor’s office, I’ll straight up ask for those pills.  I probably would have failed a drug test or two in my younger days, too, from just sitting in my dorm room in Duggar Hall.  The ominous haze that hung in the hallway and slipped under my door at nights like the Dementors from a Harry Potter movie probably would have showed up in a test.  Thankfully, the only result was a precipitous move out of the dorm into my own apartment.

It’s an issue that’s going to be with us until…well…forever.  Apparently, even the earliest Olympians tried to get some sort of performance edge.  This timeline documents the use of PED’s from the earliest Olympic games to 2012.  They’ve been around, and athletes continue to use them.  The recent 50 game suspension of Oakland A’s pitcher Bartolo Colon is evidence of that.   And, it’s not just in the “Bigs”, either.  Deshun Dixon, a baseball phenom drafted out of high school last year from my home state of Mississippi was just recently suspended for 50 games for drug use.  Without pay.

PED’s have been banned in every major sport, from cycling to baseball to football to horse racing to the Olympics.  Congress has banned them.  No, Congress has made them illegal.  Yet, their use is widespread.  One writer questions the effect of PED’s in athletic competition.  Still, another writer says educate and inform and let the athletes use PED’s if they wish.  After all, it’s their life.

Sports has reached an intense level of competitiveness.  In my experience of watching the game at many levels, and talking to athletes at many levels, you better perform, or you’re gone.  That’s insane pressure, when every at bat, every pitch, every game, and every season is analyzed by some sort of statistic.  Ever seen the movie Moneyball?  In essence, you have the starting nod today, but the upper level guys are out there looking for your replacement.

That same pressure exists at the collegiate level and, sadly, at the high school level.  More and more kids are looking for that competitive edge to get the starting job, or the collegiate scholarship, or maybe, to get drafted.  The sad thing is, when a PED is used to reach a level of play, you’ve got to stay at that level.  That means you’ve got keep using PED’s.  It’s a vicious cycle.

There are some legitimate questions.  

Do the drugs really enhance the performance level of an athlete?  Yes, they can make an athlete stronger, but being stronger doesn’t necessarily translate into ability.

Do PED’s help athletes play the game longer?  My response would be yes.  But, at what price?  There are side effects for long term use.  And, in some instances, a PED will only mask the pain of muscle overuse or degeneration.

Do regimens such as weightlifting, cardio, and core training give unfair advantage?  The argument to use PED’s could migrate to that question, implying that intense physical workouts would give an athletic advantage like PED’s and should, therefore, be an argument to legalize PED’s.  In my mind, PED’s enhance performance; strength training makes the athlete efficient.  There’s a difference, and this argument has no merit.

What about Christian athletes?

As a Christian, the issue should be clear.  PED’s should not be part of the athletic ritual, regardless of what sport you play.  The reasons are clear:

1)     PED’s are illegal.  Congress has banned them and they are illegal to use or posses.  Other governing agencies – the IOC and NCAA – have banned their use, too.  If there are laws against using them, we, as Christians, are called to submit to those laws.  Paul states in Romans 13,

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

The government and its authority, as seen in its laws, are ordained by God.  To disobey the government is to be disobedient to God.

2)     God is the Creator and Maker of who we are.  While we can exercise to make our bodies stronger, the use of drugs to do so creates an issue.  To alter our bodies beyond what was intended by God is to imply a dissatisfaction with the way God made us.  Again, in Romans 9, Paul says,

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?

The commentary says that this type of behavior is akin to “playing God” and warns that we cannot question God.

3)     It’s cheating.  If everyone were using PED’s, it would be fair.  But, they’re not.  They’re illegal, and most play by the rules.  When someone doesn’t play by the rules, they gain an unfair advantage and have violated a basic morality.

Performance Enhancing Drugs are wrong on so many levels.  They make us what we’re not, and that violates God’s design.  As Christians, we’re called not only to obedience of all that God commands, but to be witnesses of that to others.

You are God’s creation.  With his help, be the best you can be while being obedient to Him.

Now, get to work.

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