In sports there is sometimes a desire to win at practically all costs. Drugs employed by athletes for sport include agents that make the body stronger, larger, increase oxygen carrying capacity, provide energy and/or stimulation, and decrease recovery time after exertion (Tricker and Cook, Athletes at Risk, 24-25). Such drugs have made the headlines via star baseball players in years past, but even as recently as last week, when the World Anti-Doping Agency found that the Russian government has been running a pervasive, secret doping program for the last five years to give that country an edge in Olympic track-and-field contests.
The Bible has a lot to say on this subject. Consider the following biblical principles:
- God expects humans to be honest (Luke 8:15; Romans 12:17). One cannot follow this rule and use prohibited substances in sports. If you are an athlete, you have an ethical responsibility to play on a “level playing field” with all the other players. Train hard, dedicate yourself in practice, but do not use steroids to help you play better.
- God expects humans to treat one another as they would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12). One cannot follow this principle and use prohibited substances in sports. After all, nobody wants to lose to athletes who cheated in order to win.
- God expects humans to be a positive example for those around them (Matthew 5:16; 1 Timothy 4:12). One cannot follow this principle and use banned substances in sports. Famous athletes regret having to admit cheating to youngsters who admire them.
- God expects humans to be good stewards of their bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20). The National Institute on Drug Abuse says that major side effects from abusing anabolic steroids (the kind athletes use) includes increased risk for prostate cancer, as well as “early heart attacks, strokes, liver tumors, kidney failure, and serious psychiatric problems.” While there are legitimate uses for steroids, using them in sports contexts is evidently dangerous.
In the words of health researchers Tricker and Cook, “Today’s coaches and athletes, who will influence the future generations of sport, need to take a stand in communicating to young athletes that they do not have to use drugs to succeed” (Athletes at Risk, xiv). More importantly, our preachers and Bible class teachers need to make clear to our teenagers the great responsibility they have not only to their sports, but to the Lord. Play by the rules. For, while there may be asterisks next to the names of some sluggers in the baseball record books, there will be no asterisks in the book of life (Revelation 20:15)