Is Rodney a cheater?
I was really surprised about Rodney Harrison's admission that he used HGH to help his recovery from knee injuries. For this violation of the NFL's banned substance policy, he is suspended for the first four games of the football season. This is a blow to the Patriots as Rodny Harrison is a physical leader of their defense.
I always admired Rodney Harrison. His 'us against the world' attitude, with no excuses, has been a mantra for the Patriots. He has excelled for them since the San Diego Chargers let him go 4 years ago as being washed up. He has come back from some serious, career-threatening injuries. His commentary to the media is always candid.
To his credit, Harrison has taken the same approach in this case. He is admitting guilt publicly, offering apolgies, with no excuses. He made a mistake in taking HGH, supposedly to help his recovery from injury. I am sure that many Patriots fans are sympathetic and will cut him a break.
But, these are the same people who are so much against Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, and Gary Sheffield's supposed use of steroids in baseball. Those players are branded as cheaters, and I think that they are. In the case of baseball, Giambi was the only one who said the right thing, acknowledging that he used steroids but also pointing out that the whole baseball establishment silently condoned the use of steroids to help the game recover fan support after the mid-90s strike. The home run chase of 1998 was exciting, even if it was steroid-fueled.
So, if those baseball players are cheaters, isn't Harrison? He violated the rules and is being punished. So, by definition, he cheated. As much as I like Harrison, I have to admit that he is a cheater.
When a player I like cheats, it makes me more sympathetic to the players I don't like, such as Bonds, who also cheated. We are all complicit in the blind acceptance of steroid and illegal substance use in sports. The drive to compete and win, to recover from injury, to make the big money (which we fund through our support of the teams) makes it hard to resist using these substances. We can all be high and mighty about not cheating, but I doubt many of us would pass up the chance to switch places with Rodney Harrison and probably make the same choice he did.
Sports leagues need to strictly enforce these rules, and perhaps the cheating will stop. Harrison's penalty is strict, and repeat offenders should be banned. If he is stupid enough to do this again after being caught once, he gets what he deserves.
I don't like writing this about one of my favorite players, but I think that it's more important that sports get cleaner than they are now.