SPORTS, DRUGS, AND N.H.

Mike Moffettby Mike Moffett
Weirs Times Columnist

In 2011 Barry Bonds—the all-time Major League Baseball Home Run King—was found guilty on the felony charge of obstructing justice. The charges related to earlier testimony regarding performance enhancing drugs. But earlier this year the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Bonds’ conviction. So if Bonds is no longer a felon, does that mean he can receive serious consideration for the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown?
How can the baseball writers NOT so-honor a hitter of 762 home runs?
Well, the hit king, Pete Rose (4256 hits) is banned from Cooperstown and can’t even get on the ballot. But gambling was his sin, which apparently is more egregious than using performance enhancers. So should Bonds now be inducted? And what about other supposed cheaters, like Rogers Clemens?
That debate will go on … and on …
And that’s okay, as it’s good to raise awareness about substance abuse, especially with New Hampshire in the midst of a heroin epidemic. Granite State Drug Czar Jack Wozmak told WMUR-TV Channel 9 that the problem is so big that it almost “defies logic.”
Granite State Drugs
As N.H. is a relatively affluent state, one wonders why so many people here turn to drugs. It’s not like we live in an impoverished third world hell-hole where people use hallucinogens to escape harsh reality and hopelessness. I see a correlation between N.H being around the top when it comes to drug use and around the bottom when it comes to church attendance. But I’ll let others proselytize for now.
Czar Wozmak should ponder how to change attitudes and norms re: drugs. There ARE models. In the late seventies, the post-Vietnam American military was so riddled with drug abuse that the Pentagon desperately turned to mandatory drug testing. It was a national security issue.
It was a magnificent success. The data is out there. The military became a drug-free culture, as those who tested positive were kicked out.
Now we don’t have the resources or the right to drug-test the general student population. There’s a reason for the 4th Amendment. But athletes are different. Sports competition is a privilege. It’s legal to establish conditions for participation that include properly administered substance screening, just as drug testing is a condition of employment at many companies, or for athletic scholarships.
The NCAA drugs tests tournament participants at all levels. And I remain proud of how Plymouth State developed a comprehensive substance abuse initiative in 1989, a component of which included testing for steroids and other drugs. Plymouth’s efforts won national acclaim.
But what about high schools? Well, several high schools in New Mexico now mandate drug testing and the results so far are promising. So why doesn’t N.H. consider something similar? While communities like Jaffrey have indeed taken steps in the past regarding screening, a better answer would be for the N.H. Interscholastic Athletic Association to randomly test tournament participants, the way the NCAA does.
Drug-Test Athletes!
The mantra of opponents of such an initiative is “more education.” But how do they explain the disturbing percentage of highly-educated doctors and medical professionals who get caught up in drug abuse?
We need more than “education” to counter the culture of permissiveness that now permeates society. Leaders and role models need to speak to values and morals. Such leaders abound in the sports world. Not Bonds or Clemens or Rose, but the natural leaders and achievers who are found on every sports team at every high school.
Yes, many schools already ask athletes to sign “contracts” or pledges not to use drugs or alcohol—the effectiveness of which is debatable. Don’t underestimate the power of peer pressure amongst young people. So give these “contracts” some teeth, with clauses pointing out that athletes will be subject to random urinalysis if their teams participate in NHIAA playoffs.
THAT action, Czar Wozmak, WILL make a difference! It won’t solve the problem, but it will provide reasons for athletes all over the state to take their contracts seriously and step away from situations involving drugs. It will create healthier norms and attitudes. It will slowly change the culture of tolerance and permissiveness regarding drugs.
Do NHIAA Executive Director Jeffrey Collins and company have the vision and the courage to lead and take action that will save lives? I don’t know. Developing a random screening process means addressing some challenging questions. There are answers to all these questions, but we don’t have space here to share them with Collins and Company.
(Costs, for example. Random screening is not expensive, compared to universal screening. And corporations would be happy to support such a worthy initiative. Burger King, Pepsi, and the NCAA paid for the aforementioned Plymouth State drug-testing.)
In crisis there is opportunity. The current N.H. drug crisis creates an opportunity for our Drug Czar and the NHIAA to take action that will change norms, save lives, and make N.H. a proud model for the nation.
Carpe diem, Messieurs Wozmak and Collins. Carpe diem!
Sports Quiz
Who was Bill Belichick’s predecessor as head coach of the New England Patriots? (Answer follows

Born Today …
That is to say, sports standouts born on August 20 include boxing promoter Don King (1931) and standout MLB third-baseman Graig Nettles (1944).

Sportsquote
“My father kept me busy from dawn to dusk when I was a kid. If the parents in the country followed this rule, juvenile delinquency would be cut in half in a year’s time.”  –Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller

Sportsquiz Answer
Pete Carroll coached the Patriots from 1997-99, having replaced Bill Parcells, who left the team after a Super Bowl loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Michael Moffett is a Professor of Sports Management at Plymouth State University and at NHTI-Concord. He recently co-authored the critically-acclaimed and award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” (with the Marines)—which is available through Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.