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The Gray Area of PEDs

After a dominating Thanksgiving performance, Houston Texans Will Fuller V’s season is over. This past Thursday, Fuller had his best game of the season, making six catches for 171 yards, including two touchdown receptions. On Monday, it was discovered that Fuller had tested positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), resulting in a six-game suspension. However, one jarring revelation was the fact that Fuller was unaware that he used an illegal substance. He has accepted the outcome, though should this medical confusion really result in the end of his 2020 campaign?

According to Fuller in an Instagram post, the medication he was prescribed was believed to have been approved by the NFL, but evidence shows quite the contrary. It is very plausible that he truly believed what he was putting into his body was legal. His knowledge of the product all comes down to his doctors. It is not like he was intentionally trying to improve his athletic ability, as he was only seeking treatment when he asked for the medication. Football is a grueling sport, very physically demanding, and Fuller has had a bad history with injuries. Finding any way to ease the recovery process is probably embraced by NFL players, yet deciphering what is allowed can be a challenge.

Fuller was hoping to play in his first full healthy season this year, as injuries have riddled his career up to this point. This season saw his role expand immensely within the Texans offense after All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was traded to the Arizona Cardinals in the off-season. He was putting up some fantastic numbers as well, recording 53 receptions, 879 receiving yards, and reaching the end zone eight times in eleven games. With Houston struggling to find success, Fuller was put on the trading block, but was never dealt.

Now there is speculation that this case could have been involved in the Texans inability to move the receiver. He is definitely a desirable asset, and it would have bewildered certain teams to pass up on the opportunity to pass on a talent like Fuller, but the potential allegations possibly halted trade talks. Fuller is not completely innocent, but it is unfair that he will lose money, and may have even lost the chance to compete for a contender because of these NFL rules.

Fuller was not the only player to have his season end this past Monday, as fellow teammate Bradley Roby also received the same sentence for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. On Roby’s Instagram, he stated, “A few months ago I unknowingly used a product that was contaminated with a banned substance by the NFL”. It is very interesting that he also had no idea that he was consuming an illegal substance. Both players put their trust into their medical professionals and yet they are both being penalized for the products they received from their doctors.

PEDs not only hurt players financially, but their reputation too. These players are paying for mistakes that are arguably not all on them. Professional athletes need the best trainers, nutrition, and medication to maintain their peak athletic bodies. The substances are not being used to gain an unfair advantage on their opponent, but to help keep the player on the field. They get paid millions of dollars to perform at the top level, and if they are not cheating the game, why not be allowed to use beneficial medicine.

The Fuller, Roby situation is very similar to the Andy Pettitte allegations in the early 2000’s. The long-time New York Yankee knew how frowned upon PEDs were in baseball. Specifically, because their impact on the sport is much greater than in football. They allow players to hit balls farther and throw harder, which ultimately ruins the integrity of the game, as those players gain an unfair advantage. Though in the case of Pettitte, he admitted to using HGH twice in 2002, and once again in 2004 to recover from injuries, not to improve his pitching.

Steroids are not always used to increase a player’s performance, as they can be instrumental in helping a player recover. Pettitte knows the dark cloud that surrounds players who are associated with PEDs, which is why he admitted his reasons for using. Players actually cheating the system should be punished accordingly, but there is a gray area with these kinds of substances. The physical grind that athletes must go through is incomparable to most average citizens. Relieving pain in order to stay on the field to perform should not be frowned upon.

Players should definitely be careful of what they consume, but the fault should not all fall on them. There are numerous people who surround every professional athlete to keep them healthy. Russell Wilson even admitted that he spends upward of $1 million annually to keep himself in the best shape possible. There are lots of variables and people involved in each players’ lives and sometimes certain drugs may be what some players need to keep going.

PEDs should be viewed differently, especially in a sport like football. Almost anything related to these substances are blown out of proportion by the league and the media, but it is often easy to forget that these athletes are people too. Getting hit 100+ times a year will most likely cause some pain, and with limited options to choose from, medication is usually the best one. Very few football players ever go an entire season completely unscathed. It is not that PEDs should be legalized, because by no means should they. However, maybe they should be viewed in a different light than they have been in the past.

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