Viagra providing athletes a head up

Professional athletes are always trying to find a way to stay ahead of the curve, to gain a competitive advantage on the field. This has manifested itself through the use of steroids, amphetamines, human growth hormones, and other substances not commonly used by the general public.

But with recent advancements in drug testing capabilities, along with stricter testing policies in each league, players are turning more toward drugs that are used by a large part of the population, since they are generally less restricted and more explainable during random drug tests.

Adderall and Viagra have both been in the news recently as uncommon performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall said in an interview with ESPN that he knew of many teammates that used Viagra before games for its blood-thinning properties.

Viagra was the focus of a recent medical investigation into the possible enhancement effects of common medication, but no strong conclusions could be made. Subsequently, Viagra was still allowed in the most recent collective bargaining agreement.

Adderall, while banned by the NFL, carries much less public stigma than traditional PEDs because of its common use as both a prescription ADHD medication and as a common illicit drug on college campuses to help students gain extra energy for all-nighters.

In the last six weeks, the NFL has had six players suspended, or subject to suspension, for failing drug tests; Seattle Seahawks starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman are currently in the process of appealing their four-game bans. Because of the privacy rules established in the latest collective bargaining agreement, neither the NFL nor the NFL Player’s Associaton can disclose what a player tested positive for.

All six of these players have publicly claimed that they failed the drug tests due to the presence of Adderall in their systems.

NFL players have been known to use Adderall during training camp. This helps keep up their energy both during practices to study their playbooks, schemes, and formations, as well as during games. It gives them an additional focus and energy boost.

Adderall is also allowed by the leagues if players can prove they have legitimate prescriptions. Both the NFL and MLB have independent boards of physicians who check players’ request for a waiver to use Adderall if they have ADHD. This review process is quite tedious, given the ease with which players can falsely obtain both prescriptions and diagnoses.

While it is conceivable that all of these players were taking Adderall and were oblivious enough to fail their drug tests, one has to question if some of these players are jumping on the Adderall bandwagon to hide other PED use.

This year, highly suspected PED users Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens are eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame for the first time. While their stats and play alone are clearly among the best in the history of the sport, their candidacy is in doubt due to the ‘asterisk’ most associate with their performances.

If we allow players to hide behind the screen of less stigmatic drugs, like Adderall or Viagra, we will never truly know if their talents are their own, or those of a drug.

The NFL’s inability to currently disclose which substances players test positive for also forces the league to use the same punishments for all PEDs, regardless of severity. Adderall should not come with the same ban as human growth hormone or steroids due to the large discrepancy in their enhancement effects.

PEDs will always be a part of professional sports, since the same competitive drive that got players to the top will also drive them to find any means necessary to stay there. By allowing players to hide behind a veil of privacy, we have stopped holding them accountable in the court of public opinion.

While sports have succeeded in holding players more accountable for their actions, the public is still left in the dark.