"We need an attitude change in our culture." This is the view of Dr. Bruce Svare, as quoted in "Steroid Scandals: The view from the kids' locker room" (The Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 14). Dr. Svare, director of the National Institute for Sports Reform in Selkirk, N.Y. stated that children see "how our society has looked the other way, how owners of baseball looked the other way, how fans looked the other way."
The article makes plain that acceptance or even applause for drug-enhanced successes send wrong signals to children.
These signals imply that "cheating for glory," as the article labels steroid use, is acceptable. And part of the fallout is increased drug abuse.
The even greater danger, I feel, from this acceptance of performance-enhancing drugs is the message that one has to win at any cost, that we can only feel good about ourselves when we are the winner.
I was brought up with the familiar advice that the important part of a contest, and of life itself, was not winning or losing but "how you play the game." And gaining a true victory could not possibly involve cheating in any form. Implied was the sentiment that the true victory was a spiritual one. It involved a triumph over the baser instinct to win at whatever cost to oneself or others.
Such teaching includes the positive assurance that good sportsmanship is the real winner and a totally satisfying accomplishment. This healthy view removes the sting from a loss and encourages the player to keep working to overcome limitations. And it places glory where it belongs, as indicated in the last line of the Lord's Prayer, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever" (Matt. 6:13).
What a victory running the four-minute mile was. Yet since then, many have run the mile in four minutes and under. But this victory still stands as a symbol representing what one individual's genuine accomplishment through self-discipline means for others.
Victories gained through drug enhancement are not truly satisfying and are, in fact, fleeting and selfish. They don't represent the discipline and overcoming of limitations and temptations that a drug-free victory does.
We can help effect the attitude change that Dr. Svare points out to be vitally important to our culture. This may well lead us to cease glorifying those sports heroes who are known for drug use, as well as encouraging better legislation in this area and stricter enforcement of laws now on the books.
Children sense even our unspoken attitudes, and when we honor achievements gained through training and discipline, they know it. And when they see that we honor how the game is played more than a victory, the temptation to cheat in order to receive glory is diminished. There is nothing like genuine self-respect, the kind that flows from knowing that we have done our best at the moment and expect to do better tomorrow. Furthermore, such feelings carry over into every aspect of our lives.
We can assure ourselves and our children that we can never lose by refusing to cheat through drug use or by any other means. "We glean spiritual harvests from our own material losses," Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote in her autobiographical work, "Retrospection and Introspection" (page 79).
A lost game or other contest that might have shed glory on us can really be seen as gain if we have resisted the temptation to cheat in order to win. Winning or losing, we gain an enduring glory and a victory that's utterly satisfying and helps inspire others, especially those kids in the locker room.
Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory,
and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and
in the earth is thine;
thine is the kingdom, O Lord,
and thou art exalted
as head above all.
I Chronicles 29:11