Athletes must be held accountable for actions

Baseball used to be as American as apple pie, but for fans who have been burned by the sport and its heroes, Alex Rodriguez’s admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs may have been the last straw. The New York Yankees first baseman told ESPN Monday he took banned substances from 2001-03 while playing for the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez confessed after a Sports Illustrated report surfaced that he had failed a drug test in 2003.

However, the dishonest actions of the game’s stars alone cannot be blamed for the decline of baseball. The MLB has said it will not penalize Rodriguez because it did not punish players for using performance-enhancing drugs at that time.’

Photographs of swimmer Michael Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics, smoking a marijuana pipe surfaced in January. While Phelps never tested positive for drugs in Beijing, the federation has decided to suspend Phelps from competition ‘- and therefore his financial backing ‘- for three months.

‘This is not a situation where any anti-doping rule was violated, but we decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero,’ USA Swimming said in a statement.

While the short length of punishment likely will not affect the young swimmer’s career, it is admirable that USA Swimming is taking action to ensure athletes realize drug abuse of any form will not be tolerated, both in the athletic arena and in the public eye.’

In these troubled economic times, it is not likely the American people will be forgiving of a baseball player whose annual salary is $27 million a year and is not punished for cheating at his job. If the MLB wishes restore its image, it needs to enact strict rules about drug abuse and punish players who fail to recognize that using performance-enhancing drugs tarnishes both their personal legacies and the game.

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