NEEDLES AND PILLS
I enjoyed Bil Gilbert's article on drugs in sport (Problems in a Turned-On World, June 23 et seq.) in full, but there is one misconception that should be pointed out from the beginning. Professional sport is not the same as amateur sport. In the former one is paid to do a job, as is a highly skilled engineer, as is the business executive in a highly competitive position and as is the ditch-digger. The amateur is in sport mainly for his own egotism, emotional benefit and, in some sports, for future employment. The medical treatment of a professional athlete should be very similar to that of the executive. If he has a bacterial infection, I would give him antibiotics and tell him to stay home or go to work, depending on his symptoms and work demands. If a ditchdigger came in with shoulder pain secondary to bursitis, I might give him cortisone and Novocain injections and tell him to rest it. But if he had to work to bring home money, he would be the final judge as to whether or not he would work.
A professional has his own unique working conditions and is more prone to musculoskeletal injuries than normal. He must be able to perform his duties as soon as possible. Anything that can be done medically to help him without endangering his present or future health should be done.
WILLIAM G. CLANCY JR., M.D.
I must congratulate you on one of the most revealing articles I have ever read. Drugs are one of the greatest problems facing society today, and the problem certainly has not passed over the sports world. As a high school competitor in cross-country and track, I am definitely against the use of drugs to improve my performance because any achievements would no longer be truly mine, and I am therefore opposed to competing against other athletes whose performance will be aided by such means.
One important fact that the sports world seems to ignore is the apparent outcome of these practices. Sports have always been a means for an athlete to display a skill he possesses and to strive to achieve personal glory. However, if he is aided by drugs, that skill is no longer his alone, nor is he deserving of the glory which traditionally is bestowed. There is also his inner self, his ego, which needs to be lifted by his achievements but which can't possibly benefit from an achievement for which some doctor is truly responsible. And if for some reason this athlete were no longer able to get these drugs and found that he could no longer achieve the same feats, his ego could be destroyed. In this way athletes will become a subhuman breed—animals striving to get the most from the body, neglecting the inner self.
After reading the first part of Bil Gilbert's story on the use of drugs in sport, this haunting question remains to be answered: Who is or are the real world champions? Remember last year's Kentucky Derby? What would happen if urine tests were conducted after each championship event? No wonder today's youth reject our present hypocritical society; if it's okay for Johnny Athlete to "pop pills," why not anybody else? How can an athlete truly believe he is a champion if he had some drug to pull him through that last effort that separates the winners and the losers? At one time coaches called on their players for desire, now they call the team trainer or physician. I can hardly wait until they present the MVP award to "Good Ole M.D. Quack, Team Trainer."
DAVID COLLIE JR.
Panama City, Fla.
What is the purpose of a drug? To improve health! Anything short of this would be an adulteration of that purpose.
As a pharmacist I recognize the validity of the viewpoints presented on both sides of the issue. I am also aware of the many and varied possible dangers as the layman is not. Inflammation, swelling, stiffness and pain are part of the body's warning system of disease or injury. To mask symptoms for too long a period could result in damage without the athlete being aware of it until too late.
The use of drugs for therapeutic purposes always involves the problem of choosing between the lesser of two evils: the possible side effects of the drug itself vs. no drug at all.
It is most important that the athlete always be made aware of the possible dangers, the long- and short-term side effects and the possibility of becoming impaired or crippled earlier in life due to the prolonged use of drugs which may temporarily relieve symptoms but have no power to cure.
Steroids, pain relievers, muscle relaxants, etc. do have their place when used to relieve misery in conjunction with other therapy (chemical or otherwise) designed to restore health. They were not intended to enable one to possibly further complicate an existing injury in order to compete a few more minutes (or hours) in a contest.
The final decision to use drugs (legally) must be the athlete's—not his employer's or his coach's—provided he (the athlete) has been given all the facts.
DAVID P. YARUSS, PHAR. D.
I am very glad to see that someone has finally said something about the use of drugs by athletes. I feel that it is rather barbaric to expose an athlete to a drug that is beneficial temporarily but in long-term use can be very hazardous to the human body. If it is illegal to inject drugs into animals (horses) so that they may perform better, then why is it legal to issue drugs to humans to do likewise? It would seem that we care more for animals than we do for humans. Drugs are wonderful in therapeutic use, so why don't they leave them there? I'm sure if some of the athletes knew what could happen to them from drug side effects, they might think twice before using them.
ROW, ROW, ROW (CONT.)
I'm so very happy that James Kunen has rejected the mean, ugly world of aristocratic, superjock athletics and found Reality, Relevance and Happiness in dissent and rebellion (Merrily, Merrily and LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER, June 16). Before we start mourning the death of rowing as an endeavor which is "out of touch" and with "no real social value," however, I'd like to suggest that Mr. Kunen has perhaps missed the entire point of the sport. This is especially evident in his closing remark, "The only competition is with yourself," because if he truly believes this, he's the closest thing there is to a natural oarsman. For excellence in crew is actually very little more than the development within yourself of high levels of concentration, stamina and positive mental attitude. Are these qualities so out of touch with Reality? It is very probable that they will serve you in every other activity, from thesis writing to a 48-hour hunger strike in Hamilton Hall.
If Mr. Kunen insists on having a perpetual case of guilty conscience just because of his proximity to Harlem, that's his choice; however, I seriously question the relevance of using this emotion as a basis for an attack on crew.
Your publisher's description of me as "one of the architects of last spring's campus revolt at Columbia" reflects a misunderstanding of the Columbia strike and my role in it.
By no stretch of even my own ego-tripping imagination was I a leading figure in the strike, either in the press or in reality. More important, there were no "architects" of the strike, insofar as that word implies planning and manipulation. The uprising was spontaneous and broad-based, necessitated as it was by Columbia's intolerable policies of expansion into the community and support of the war in Vietnam.
Finally, what took place at Columbia in 1968—like what is taking place all over America in 1969—was no "campus revolt." It involved the support, participation and arrest of community people as well as students, the old as well as the young—a united resistance against the military-industrial-university-governmental machine by people who will neither be its victims nor its servants, seeing that, in the end, to be either is to be both.
JAMES S. KUNEN
New York City
William Leggett tells it like it is in his article, Kids' Crusade in Boston (SI, June 16). I was fortunate enough to live in Boston the summer that the Sox won the pennant. I can remember cutting many a class to visit Fenway. But two experiences sum up Boston's feeling about the Sox.
I remember once dialing information for a telephone number that summer. Instead of the usual "May I help you please" from the operator, the voice I heard asked, "What is the score of the Red Sox game?" I also remember a tremendous traffic jam in the last week of the season caused by a driver who refused to enter the Sumner Tunnel because Yaz was at bat with men on and he wanted to hear the play on his car radio.
Rico, Reggie and Yaz notwithstanding, Fenway Park itself contributes much to the mystique of the Boston Red Sox. It is a very intimate ball park in that the fans are nearly in the game themselves—I wonder if Dick Williams knows he has 33,379 on the bench. Also, considerations which are nonexistent or merely "ho-hum" in a symmetrical ball park loom large in Boston: Did Yaz catch that line drive to the left field corner? (You'll have to wait until the fans on the right-field side react—the suspense will ge to you—since they're the only ones who can see the left-field corner.) Will Killebrew beat us in the ninth with a 500-foot grand slam (400 feet up, 100 feet down the line)?
Now that there are stirrings in Boston regarding a new stadium, I hope that the planners will recognize all the factors relating to the popularity of the Red Sox. I don't mean to say that all the peculiarities of Fenway Park are desirable. But I hope that they do point up that the setting in which the Red Sox play has a certain character to it that contributes its share to the whole of what the Red Sox are.
RICHARD F. KELLY
West Hartford, Conn.
MORE ON JOE
I'm 17, female and admit my knowledge concerning professional football is limited. However, I am able to distinguish between black and white, and Joe Willie's logic behind his retirement from the game was wrong.
Listen, Joe, you have all my respect for sacrificing a game that no one questions you worship, for a "principle." (You were threatened with suspension merely on the grounds that you owned a share in a restaurant frequented by gamblers.) But there is another principle that you overlooked—a principle which is so much more crucial. Pete Rozelle as the commissioner of pro football has the job to keep football the clean and beautiful game that it is. True, you were in no way connected with the gambling or whatever that has been going on in Bachelors III, but it is your name and your money which provide a meeting place for these men.
Joe, you're the No. 1 professional football player today and the hero of millions. I admire your honesty and individuality more than I can say, and a month ago I would say that Joe Namath could do no wrong. But you are wrong this time. Everyone has to submit to authority no matter how much he may dislike the reasoning behind it because without law and order we would be in total chaos.
So, Joe, show true guts, sell your interests and return to football. Do it for yourself, your teammates and your public. We already miss you.
There's one on you in PEOPLE (June 23).
"Fran Tarkenton was voted Sports Father of the Year, and showed himself sensible of the honor in the most appropriate way possible: he had another baby...."
Perhaps Mother of the Year would be more appropriate?
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