Brent Musburger: “Here’s the truth about steroids: They work.”

Jan 6, 2010; Newport Beach, CA, USA; Sports commentator Brent Musburger addresses the media at the Citi BCS Bowl National Championship Press Conference at the Newport Marriott in Newport Beach, CA. Photo via Newscom

ABC and ESPN play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger recently suggested to a group of college journalism students that professional and college athletes could use steroids to improve their athletic performance if done so under a doctor’s supervision.


“Here’s the truth about steroids: They work,” he said in a story reported by The Missoulian.

“I’ve had somebody say that, you know, steroids should be banned because they’re not healthy for you,” he told the students Tuesday. “Let’s go find out. What do the doctors actually think about anabolic steroids and the use by athletes? Don’t have a preconceived notion that this is right or this is wrong.”

Musburger said negative stories about steroids are mainly the fault of “journalism youngsters out there covering sports [who] got too deeply involved in something they didn’t know too much about.”

Asked by The Associated Press to expand on his comments Wednesday, Musburger said through a publicist at ESPN that he stood by the comments he made to the students and that his main point was that “the issue of steroids belongs in the hands of doctors and not in the hands of a journalist.”

Dr. Gary Wadler, who leads the committee that determines the banned-substances list for the World Anti-Doping Agency, said he was “kind of surprised Brent would make that statement.”

“He’s categorically wrong, and if he’d like to spend a day in my office, I can show him voluminous literature going back decades about the adverse effects of steroids,” he said. “They have a legitimate role in medicine that’s clearly defined. But if it’s abused, it can have serious consequences.”

Musburger is actually right about one thing: the issue of steroids does belong in the hands of doctors and not journalists. The subject is thrown around with reckless abandon these days and all writers should do more research on the topic before making definitive claims about steroid use. It’s almost cliché these days to throw out a “steroids are bad for the game” piece whenever the topic comes back into light.

That said, I disagree with his view that college and pro athletes should use steroids to improve athletic performance – whether they were being supervised or not. It would be too hard to regulate and what kind of message would we be sending to high school kids? Musburger himself said that steroids don’t belong at the high school level, but how many young players would start taking them in hopes of playing college ball? It’s a slippery slope and one that would certainly lead to disaster.

It would only take one player to abuse PEDs and all of a sudden the NFL would have a league-wide problem on its hands. Even if you gave a teenager a loaded weapon, taught him how to use it and then said, “Only fire this weapon under my supervision,” how long do you think it would take before that teenager snuck the gun out and started using it on his own? We live in an addictive society – there’s no way the NFL or NCAA could regulate when and how players use steroids every single time.

It’s best if this can of worms stays sealed.

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