Just recently, yet another prominent competitive athlete has admitted to using performance-enhancing steroids. The athlete is U.S. Olympic track star Marion Jones. In addition to having to go through the humiliation of giving back her Olympic gold medals, she may be facing more serious consequences, possibly even time in jail.
Anabolic steroids are illegal and can be extremely harmful to the user’s health. However, users are drawn to them because of the hope of capturing wealth and fame. One huge concern is the fact that the use of these drugs is not limited to high level athletes. Studies show that many high-school athletes have at least tried them as well. One scary estimate suggests as many as 5 percent of high-school boys and 2.5 percent of high-school girls have used them. There is no telling what kind of health concerns this will lead to in these young lives.
For some time now, this issue has put professional baseball in the spotlight. Many of the most celebrated home-run hitters in recent years have been identified as users. This has given baseball a bad name, and it has made victims of the players who have remained honest and drug-free. I was able to see firsthand how it affected the game while I worked as the massage therapist for the Chicago White Sox baseball team. Frank Thomas (The Big Hurt), who is 6′ 5,” 280 lbs., was always big. He was big in junior high school and he only got bigger and stronger as he got older. He has been the poster boy for steroid testing in baseball, but has never been accused of using steroids. Quite frankly, I feel he has been ripped off by the whole scandal. In fact, there were some years he was beat out in MVP voting by players who have since been found to have used steroids. If you take steroids out of the picture, Frank’s amazing statistics shine even brighter. I would joke with Frank and say, “It’s all your fault – you’re big and hit home runs, so players cheat to be like you!”
Massage, like steroids, can improve performance. While working extensively with Frank Thomas at home games from 2002 through 2005, he went from hitting 51 percent of his home runs at home prior to receiving massage therapy, to hitting 76 percent at home. At the same time, his overall home run production increased by 26 percent – and this is in an aging athlete. I believe these statistics show very clearly that the massage therapy Frank received at home games dramatically improved his performance. In addition to experiencing no negative side effects, he also remained largely injury-free during that same period.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong also has been touched by the steriod controversy. Like professional baseball, “doping” has played a very negitive roll in competitive cycling. Many prominent cyclists have been found to be users. Although Lance has never been found to have used steroids, his success has caused many of the teams he has competed against to question whether he ever used steroids. I believe Lance is innocent. He has a reputation of being very disciplined and working harder than anybody on a bike – and he received massages. I understand that while training and racing, he would receive two massages per day. He would begin his day with one in the morning and a second when he finished training or racing. He has spoken about the benefits he derived from massage in interviews over the years. I’m confident that if you were to take massage out of Lance’s training regimen, he wouldn’t have had the success he did. I’m also confident he would tell us the same thing.
I hope that in the future, more and more athletes begin to recognize that massage therapy can enhance their athletic performance effectively. And I hope that at the same time, we see a decrease in the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs.