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Explaining the steroid scandal in four panels

Feb 13, 2013, 8:55 AM EDT

The always on-point Randall Munroe of XKCD — who basically ended sportswriting as we know it with this cartoon — is on point once again this morning:




It’s sports, people. That’s all it is. Whenever you’re tempted to think that something some athlete or coach has done is truly dire, remember, it’s just sports.

  1. mlblogsbutlerblogs - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    If you feel that way then make sure you write articles defending Armstrong and A-Rod. They never hurt anyone. Just lied and cheated to make more money. Gosh it’s just sports…

    • jarathen - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:11 AM

      The cycling thing is hilarious to me because that sport has been so awash in PEDs that no one could win without them. That so many people have acted so shocked and betrayed that Armstrong’s sustained excellence was aided has been one of the great comedies of our time.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:21 AM

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t someone do a study and say something like you needed to go back to 1996 to find a Tour de France where the top 3 weren’t caught using PEDs?

      • cktai - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        The 2012 top 3 has never been caught using PEDs. The 2010 top 3 has also never been caught, or confessed, although Menchov has recently been implicated by some of his Rabobank colleagues.

        And the year should be 1986 with Greg LeMond, Bernard Hinault and Urs Zimmermann. The 1996 Tour was famously won by Riis with a hematocrit level of 60 (anything over 50 got banned a year later)

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        Holy crap, so it’s even further back? While I watched when Armstrong was racing, it’s not exactly a high priority on my sports watching so I apologize if I’m wrong.

      • cktai - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:51 AM

        Yeah EPO came on the scene somewhere in the early 90s. Some of the winners between 86 and 90 admitted to PED use in the latter parts of their careers, after they had finished on the podium.

        I should mention though, that there is a lot more to cycling then just the Tour de France. The winners of the classics and world championships in general are more clean than the stage race riders. Simply because PEDs are mostly used for recovery.

    • paperlions - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:16 AM

      If you think Armstrong never hurt anyone, you haven’t paid any attention to the last 10 years.

      • dcfan4life - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:21 AM

        Kind of like the argument of Bill Gates. The man is the largest contributor to charities every year, but has put more people out of work, destroyed more businesses and lives than you can imagine. Armstrong is the same way.

      • jwbiii - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:40 AM

        This is so true! I once passed Lance Armstrong* in Westlake and I got laid off at the end of the fiscal year**!

        * I had a Chevy with a 240 hp V6, he had a Trek bicycle.

        ** My contract only ran through the end of the fiscal year. Gov. Rick Perry didn’t renew the program I was working on, but he’s anti-steroids so it must be Armstrong’s fault.

      • denny65 - Feb 15, 2013 at 3:11 AM

        Right-o, ask Lemond if Armstrong has never hurt anyone. Or Landis. Or Tyler Hamilton. Or Frankie Andreau. Or….

    • bsbiz - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      Because lying and cheating to make more money is just limited to the narrow scope for sports?

      To the Fainting Couch!!! (trademark Jay Jaffe)

      • dcfan4life - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        I think the key difference to it being so unnacceptable in sports is the way our children look up to these athletes. Its not like the kids are saying i want to be a real estate mongul who crushes all, or a cutthroat CEO of a marketing firm, or start a global finance company when i grow up. But many wanted to be Bonds, Clemens, Arod, Mcgwire and so forth.

      • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:46 AM

        please, if children look up to these folks it is their parents fault. not the athletes. I looked up to Barry Bonds as a child, he was one of my favorite players. I dont think i’m morally bankrupt or anything because of it. Humans are flawed. there are no real role models, nor should there be. Everyone is different. This notion that you should act like someone is silly.

      • jfwiii - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:26 AM

        Can’t decide if “mongul” is supposed to be a prominent businessperson, a mixed breed, an Asian ethnic reference, or perhaps a combination of the three. Now I’m picturing a centaur Bud Selig fighting Genghis Khan, which is fun.

      • bsbiz - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        A real estate mongul tries to sell you a house while terrorizing the steppes of Russia.

  2. DelawarePhilliesFan - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    I have been a harsh critic of PED’s, but I totally agree it is only sports.

    On the flip side, I can’t understand why someone who earns a living based on the irrational feeling people have about sports is trying to pull back the veil… saying you want us to move on with our lives? :)

    P.S. special mention to Lance Armstrong. Suing people in court and destroyoing there livelihood for liable when they in fact told the truth is well past “just sports”

    • IdahoMariner - Feb 13, 2013 at 12:55 PM

      Yeah, there are layers and facets to the whole steroids as cheating concept (was it cheating before it was banned? is the problem really that several of the substances are illegal to have or use without a prescription? is it bad because they are ultimately dangerous to use and their continued use by some makes it mandatory for others to use them (to the detriment of their health) simply to compete and stay in their sport? do any peds really give an advantage, or is this just some sad placebo craziness?)…, yes it is really just sports, so we shouldn’t get ridiculously jacked up about the cheating/not cheating stuff….but there are other, interesting and actually important ethical questions involved, so it’s not just a silly issue.

      more importantly, armstrong’s affirmative behavior to sue people claiming they were defaming him, to try and succeed in damaging people’s livelihoods because they knew and spoke the truth about his doping was him taking it out of the realm of “just sports” (his doping) and into the real world with real consequences to people simply speaking the truth.

  3. dcfan4life - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    Hey Craig, do you tell your kids “hey, if you cheat in this little league game, dont worry, its just sports…”

    • ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      Or, “Hey Kids,” if you want to win, forget the Wheaties — inject some HGH under your tongue!

      “It’s just about sports.” And sports is about health and fitness and teamwork. But HGH and steroids are about risking your health to gain a competitive advantage. If you can’t see the difference, you never understood what sports is about.

      • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:11 AM

        I thought the main message of little league was, it doesnt matter whether you when or lose but if you have fun…..i didnt realize little league got so cut throat that winning was the reason for playing….

      • ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:10 PM

        Actually, Little League is about playing fair, striving to win, and win or lose, always doing your best. Doesn’t say anything about injecting HGH or steroids.

        Bottom line is players who DON’T do steroids shouldn’t be at a competitive disadvantage to those who do. You shouldn’t have to risk your health to be competitive.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Hey Craig, do you tell your kids “hey, if you cheat in this little league game, dont worry, its just sports…”

      No, most likely he tells them that these people are adults and are making decisions with health consequences for the rest of their lives, but as adults that’s a choice they are allowed to make.

      • protectthishouse54 - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        Right. And if another adult wants to have the same job but isn’t willing to incur the health risks, well f*** them. Did I get that right?

      • ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:42 PM

        Right. Look at WWE wrestling. Because of a number of deaths to the young “adults” in that sport, WWE is now testing for steroids. I couldn’t imagine baseball devolving into what pro wrestling is trying to fix.

        Here’s a video of former WWE wrestler and Harvard grad Chris Nowitzki explaining why steroids are so harmful (enlarged hearts) and should be banned:

        Here’s a story documenting the alarming rate of pro wrestlers dying young:

        [Excerpt:] USA TODAY’s examination of medical documents, autopsies and police reports, along with interviews with family members and news accounts, shows that at least 65 wrestlers died in that time, 25 from heart attacks or other coronary problems — an extraordinarily high rate for people that young, medical officials say. Many had enlarged hearts.

        Athletes shouldn’t have to risk their lives to be able to compete in pro wrestling or in pro baseball.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 13, 2013 at 2:44 PM

        Athletes shouldn’t have to risk their lives to be able to compete in pro wrestling or in pro baseball.

        Who says they have to? The sooner we get away from the “steroids make you better” stupidity the sooner we can treat this issue, if not solve it altogether. For every Bonds/Clemens/Arod, we can point out the many players who were caught who were replacement level or worse.

        As to the job comment, it’s really not an apples to oranges comparison. Most jobs require you to pass a drug test for employment, and you are subject to a drug test if deemed necessary. in MLB, PED use has essentially been sanctioned since the 60s, and only really came to a forefront when a bunch of Congressmen got their panties in a bunch.

      • ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        Someone should tell Melky Cabrera that steroids don’t make you better.

  4. deadeyedesign23 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    You can use that same argument to defend heroin use.

    Well uh we humans are sack of chemicals that stay alive by putting other chemicals inside us. And we spend a lot of out like trying to make ourselves feel good, but some chemicals make us feel TOO good.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM

      …our lives*

  5. bobcrs - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:24 AM

    WOW…Still pro-steroids….The question of whether steroids are good or bad is irrelevant when it comes to cheating. Steroids may ultimately be fine but they are currently illegal and banned and if you use them you are cheating. No gray are here. Just like adding cork to a bad isn’t harmful but it’s is cheating because its illegal. Until it’s somehow changed then the player using drugs cheated.

    • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:47 AM

      But why do people care more about using PEDs than corking a bat or scuffing a ball? You get 10 games for scuffing a ball. Please prove that PEDs provide more of a performance edge than scuffing a ball…

    • nategearhart - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:45 AM

      It should be ok to question their being illegal, though. Just like we asked why the hell alcohol was illegal during prohibition.

      • protectthishouse54 - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Is it really that hard to figure out? They’re bad for your health and if they’re allowed to be used, then everyone has to use them. Otherwise, you fall behind and risk losing money, your career, etc. The honest approach to the game has to be protected.

      • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        Ummm if bad for your health is the argument, why do we allow beer? PEDs do more for someone’s health than alcohol. Ditto smoking. Also fat foods. What does a 1200 calorie cheeseburger do for you?

        If you are worried about health then outlaw those. PEDs shouldnt be illegal.

  6. sdelmonte - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:28 AM

    The thing is, though, if that even it’s only sports, it can still teach lessons. If the lesson is, the ends justify the means, fine. But it’s a bit disingenuous to just say “it’s only a game.” Or else why should we care about any of it in the first place?

    Better to say what Cosell did: it’s only just a game. It’s more than just a game.

    Though Randall does sort of hit the nail on the head about why I think steroids should be legal.

    • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:48 AM

      Settler’s of Catan is only a game, but I care about it. You choose what you do and do not care about. However, just because you care about something doesnt mean it has to have moral significance or change the way you view right or wrong. That’s up to you, not professional athletes or board game players.

    • nategearhart - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Care about the outcomes of the events for entertainment purposes, but don’t attach any life lessons to it.

  7. jennstergersburnedretinas - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Yeah, F it. Make it a free for all. Cocaine? Yep. HGH? Why certainly. Drunk on gameday? Sounds good. After all we’re just sacks of chemicals that want to win. F morals. F values. And most of all F those people who want to do it the “right way”. F them in their stupid asses.

    • nategearhart - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Please explain what is “immoral” about using cocaine or HGH.

    • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      drunk on gameday, like Mantle?

  8. JB (the original) - Feb 13, 2013 at 9:49 AM

  9. raysfan1 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    Argument Clinic – YouTube

  10. eagles512 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:10 AM

    Just sports? Steroids kill people.

    • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:24 AM

      How many people die from PEDs a year? How many people from amphetamines? How many people from drinking? How many people from smoking? How many people from chewing tobacco?

  11. Chris Fiorentino - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    The third panel should include the following words, under “that make them too fast and too strong”

    “and that also can do a lot of harm to their bodies”

    The cartoonist has completely missed the point of the outrage over steroids. It isn’t because Barry Bonds hit too many home runs. It’s that others will be pressured into doing the same thing, which will unfairly put their long-term health in jeopardy. Maybe this guy should talk to ex-players like Doug Glanville, who refused to take the PEDs and lost out on the bigger money contracts because of doing so.

    • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      how do you know Glanville lost money because he didnt take PEDs? Did Alex Sanchez make a ton of money because he took PEDs?

      Also, I’m pretty sure people understand the dangers of steroids right now. Players arent making these decisions without full knowledge of the health impacts.

      lastly, a line of reasoning for why Bonds took steroids is because he was pissed that McGwire/Sosa were stealing his limelight….so was Bonds forced to take PEDs because others were? Doesnt that make Bonds the same victim as those you’re saying who were “pressured into doing the same thing.” If Bonds wasnt one of the first to take PEDs, doesnt it follow from your argument that he was pressured into doing it? So why blame him?

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM

        I posted about it before, so I’ll just post the link and hope it is OK to post in the comments here…

        Read the article and you will see where Glanville talks about exactly what I said.

        To answer your point about Bonds, he took it to another level. He wanted to be the greatest ever and so he took steroids. He wasn’t happy with just being a top-10 all-time great. To me, that’s not being “pressured into doing the same thing”. Feeding your family is “being pressured into doing the same thing”. Or, as Glanville puts it, staying in the game by aging naturally or by “other methods” is being pressured into doing the same thing. Glanville chose one way. Others chose door #2.

      • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:45 AM

        But, how do you know PEDs would have helped Glanville’s career? Tons of people took PEDs with little benefit to their baseball playing. Could it have helped him, sure. Do you know for a fact? No. He made an informed choice. Good for him. But to say that a magic pill would have suddenly gave him 10 more years is improbable. Dude was an average player at best in his prime.

        Hank Aaron, one of the best players ever, took greenies. If Bonds wanted to take his record and “be the best ever,” didnt Aaron taking greenies improve his stat line which then forced Bonds to take another PED to improve his chances?

        You are complaining about the PED users pressuring others to take them. and then blame Bonds for creating this pressure. However, it’s pretty easy to logically assume that if this pressure exists, clearly Bonds felt it, given that players have taken PEDs for some time now. So are you saying that while PEDs existed for 30+ years in baseball, it wasnt until Bonds took them that others felt this pressure to take them? That’s silly. This pressure is either everyone’s fault who took PEDs, which includes a ton of baseball players or no one’s fault. You cant single Bonds out.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:05 AM

        Dude, I just used Bonds as an EXAMPLE. Did you want me to write every single player’s name in the comment? The only reason I gave Boinds as an EXAMPLE is that Craig seems to imply that the only reason people hate Bonds is for breaking the HR record and that’s not true in my opinion. There is another factor and that is that Bonds, AND EVERY PLAYER WHO CHEATED BY TAKING PEDs(there, ya happy?) got an advantage that players who cared more about their long-term health, like Doug Glanville, did not get because they didn’t take the PEDs. Just because Glanville, who did have a great year in 1999 before he got hurt, wasn’t breaking records, he could have easily played into his later 30’s if he decided to take the PEDs. He didn’t because he cared more about his long-term health. Not because he wanted to try to break records. No matter the reason, players who take the PEDs make it unfair to those who do not. And THAT is the major reason people do not like the players who took the PEDs.

      • alang3131982 - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:58 AM

        Again, how do you know Glanville would have had a longer career had he taken PEDs? He was average as a 28-year-old. The list of people who took PEDs and sucked is at least as long as the list of people who took PEDs and excelled.

        So you hate every single player who took PEDs evenly? You hate Hank Aaron? Hank Aaron is liked by thousands of people, he is “the true HR King.” He took greenies. Greenies are PEDs. Therefore, the majority of people should dislike Aaron cause he, in taking PEDs, made it unfair to those who did not. He made it unfair to his contemporaries and everyone chasing his records.

        So, is it your contention that the same amount of people do not like Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds? If not, the reason people dislike Bonds more is not because he took PEDs but because he was good at it. Which is bullsh*t

    • nategearhart - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      I don’t think anyone is mad at Barry Bonds for putting his health at risk. If that were true there’d be just as much rage and gnashing of teeth over Jason Grimsley and Pablo Ozuna. People are mad at Bonds for 762. That’s it.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:36 AM

        Not his health, but the guys who used PEDs put their own health at risk and pressured other guys into either following along or being at a disadvantage. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand???

  12. raysfan1 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    SI called the racers on the European cycling circuit the most drugged group of athletes on the planet…in 1960.

    • cktai - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      The problem with cycling is that there are few sports where PEDs can have such a huge advantage as in cycling.

      Although I’d argue weightlifting might be worse.

  13. raysfan1 - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:37 AM

    Steroids are very useful medications with fewer side effects when used properly than many other commonly used medications on the market.

    I don’t care if you want get up in arms over illegal use–it certainly is cheating. However, please stop the angst-ridden “steroids kill people” stuff. I prescribe various steroids almost daily. Used properly, they are extremely beneficial and have saved far more people than they have hurt–including the “anabolic steroids.”. Abusing any medication can have deleterious effects, and that should be the issue here, not a blanket condemnation of an entire class of pharmaceutical.

    • ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 3:05 PM

      What problems can abusing anabolic steroids cause? Anabolic steroids can cause serious side effects. Some of these effects can be permanent.

      In men, anabolic steroids can:
      Reduce sperm count.
      Shrink the testicles.
      Cause you not to be able to father children.
      Enlarge the breasts.

      In both men and women, anabolic steroids can cause:
      Bone growth to stop before it is complete in a teen. The teen may not reach his or her full adult height.
      A heart attack or stroke, even in a very young person.
      High blood pressure.
      Higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL).
      Liver disease and possibly liver cancer. The chance of these problems is higher when steroids are taken as a pill.
      Oily skin and acne.
      Male-pattern hair loss.
      Skin infections that can become severe if the drug was tainted with bacteria.
      Irritability, rage, uncontrolled high energy (mania), or false beliefs (delusions).


    • raysfan1 - Feb 13, 2013 at 8:03 PM

      I’m well aware of the potential side effects. Literally every medication has side effects. Tylenol can cause liver failure in some people, as an example. Most of the side effects are dose dependent (more drug = more side effect), which in turn occurs more often when a drug is being abused rather than used properly as prescribed by a competent physician for a legitimate medical problem…which is back to the point I already made.

  14. dowhatifeellike - Feb 13, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    Apparently most HBT readers don’t understand how comics work.

  15. Old Gator - Feb 13, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    How far back does it go?

    During the middle Jurassic period, small, agile carnivores suddenly became huge destroying machines with gigantic claws, moutfulls of butcher knives, acute infrared and olfactory sensors and an accelerated metabolism, giving them a noteworthy advantage over the hulking herbivores on which they fed.

    I believe those carnivores had begun taking performance enhancing drugs.

  16. evogel - Feb 13, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    Two of my favorite things together! Calcaterra and XKCD! In the words of Daniel Tosh “you’ll hate life after sports anyway” so who cares if they’re harmful to your body. I doubt many people on this forum would refrain from using steroids if you told them “You’ll get to play baseball for 12 good seasons and be a 2-3 time all-star and make obscene amounts of money, but after you’ll probably have some lasting physical effects”.

  17. ctony1216 - Feb 13, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    There should be a rule that whenever you write a pro-PED story, you have to list the harmful side effects of those PEDs. Use the same rule that applies to drug ads on TV. For instance:

    Possible side effects of HGH use include:
    – nerve, muscle, or joint pain
    – swelling due to fluid in the body’s tissues (edema)
    – carpal tunnel syndrome
    – numbness and tingling of the skin
    – high cholesterol levels
    – HGH can also increase the risk of diabetes and contribute to the growth of cancerous tumors.

    Furthermore, if you get the drug illicitly, you may not know what you are really getting. Because of the high cost, HGH drugs have been counterfeited. If you are not getting HGH from your doctor, you may be getting an unapproved product.

  18. bh192012 - Feb 13, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    I thought White Zombie and Blade Runner had this all figured out…. “More Human Than Human”

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