Many sports fans can point to a time when one of their favorite players or athletes was suspended for substance abuse. Other fans may recall the moment their team beat a rival and a sports analyst attributed the win to a certain player’s suspension.
It seems that every year another sports star makes headlines and is served with a suspension for violating their respective leauge’s substance-abuse policy—NFL wide receiver Josh Gordon, former NBA guard O.J. Mayo and former MLB pitcher Jenrry Mejia are examples.
Gordon, a repeat offender of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, signed a four-year, $5.3 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
Because he was suspended three times between 2013 and 2015, he has only played one full season of that contract. During all three suspensions, Gordon tested positive for marijuana. As a result of his multiple suspensions, Gordon lost a portion of his contract.
Mayo and Mejia, who were both seen as potential role players for their respective franchises, signed multi-million dollar contracts while playing professionally. Both, however, continued to test positive for steroid use.
Because of their lack of respect for their leagues’ drug policies, both will have to wait until 2018 to petition for entry back into their respective leagues.
As a former collegiate football player and avid sports fan, I feel that today’s athletes can no longer be trusted when it comes to avoiding substance abuse and performance-enhancing drug (PED) regulations.
As fans, we need to take a stand and demand that these reckless practices are no longer tolerated. Why? Because as time passes, more players will continue to waste their talents simply because they cannot follow rules.
This year alone, 23 NFL players have been suspended without pay due to violations of the league’s substance-abuse policy. In the past decade, 260 NFL players have been suspended for violations. From 1983 to 2006, only 93 players were suspended for substance abuse.
The MLB has similar issues, with nine players suspended this year. While only 100 players have been suspended in the league’s history, the MLB has dealt with players on controlled substances like steroids since the 1990s. The league didn’t start testing players for PEDs until 2003.
As for the NBA and NHL, substance abuse and PED usage haven’t received much attention. The recent suspensions of players Shawn Horcoff and Jarred Tinordi, and the indefinite ban of the aforementioned Mayo earlier this year, cause fans to wonder if these leagues really take this issue seriously.
What is even more problematic is that every player in professional sports has a trainer who provides them with information about acceptable supplements.
It’s understandable that players will violate policies from time to time, but the numbers and patterns are cause for alarm. Sure, there are factors such as family history and environment that may lead to substance abuse, but teams should be aware of these factors before making their choice with a potential drug user.
Just as professional athletes work hard and train for their sports, the majority of fans spend time and money to support the sports they love. If so many of these players cannot respect league rules, then why should we continue to support the leagues that sign them?
The four major leagues’ executives implemented these regulations because they believed substance abuse and PED usage would decrease. Instead, more violations have occured. At some point, players’ unions have to hold every player accountable in order to keep their fans, families and peers happy.
We all just want to see everyone play instead of being distracted by these issues.