Letter of the day (Jan. 16): Put performance-enhancing drugs in historical perspective

  • Updated: January 16, 2013 - 3:47 PM

Understand what's happening today in its historical context.

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I think Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds and other so-called "cheaters" who used performance-enhancing drugs are getting a bum rap. This is massive hypocrisy by athletes, coaches, the press and the public.

I look back at sports in the 1940s, when I was in school. At that time, anyone who lifted weights to enhance performance was considered a freak and was thought to be trying to gain strength artificially. The real athletes lettered in three sports, didn't train in the summer and didn't lift weights.

I swam in high school, and when the swimmers from the Iron Range always won, we thought they had an unfair advantage because their schools had pools. In the 1950s, athletes started to train and compete in one sport.

The "real athletes" who had nine letters when they graduated often were upset at being beaten by someone who got better by specializing

. By the 1960s, all athletes were lifting weights, and every sport had its own diets, pills and training regimens. Is a student cheating if he enhances his study time by taking a stimulant, like 5-Hour Energy, before a big test? Does he have an unfair advantage if he belongs to a fraternity that has a library of old tests for various common courses? Is a coach cheating when he has someone reading the lips of the other coach during games or has someone observe an opponent's practices?

In athletics, as in life, everyone is looking for a way to gain an advantage. It is athletes' consciences, bodies and lives, so they must make the final decision.

HERBERT A. SCHOENING, MINNEAPOLIS

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