Should drug use get a professional sports athlete banned for life? What a ridiculous question. Here are a few more hypothetical questions to consider:
Should drug use get a politician banned for life? Should drug use get a teacher banned for life? How about a rock star, or a model, or a minister, or a firefighter, or a soldier, or a novelist, or a mother?
One argument is that professional athletes are role models for young people and they should be punished for drug use to set an example.
But how are they more of a role model than any of the other occupations listed above? I would contend that a mother is equally (if not more) influential in the life of a child than Barry Bonds. So if she is caught using drugs, should we not only take away her reproductive rights but also her existing children to ensure their protection? Why not a zero-tolerance policy for everyone, why single out professional athletes?
Also, what exactly is the message we are sending to those young impressionable minds? That any lapse of judgment on your part will destroy you for the rest of your life? No, there is no possibility of rehabilitation, no chance at redemption, no forgiveness ever.
What about a professional athlete who used drugs before they were a professional? Should any drug use during the course of his or her life ban them from a career in athletics? Smoke a joint between classes in high school and destroy your future aspirations as a place kicker in the NFL? Take caffeine pills during finals week at Metropolis University and never be able to play in the beach volleyball circuit after graduation (caffeine doses over a certain amount is considered a controlled substance in college athletics).
Retired athletes are still considered role-models aren't they? Should we start confiscating 1980-1985 Super Bowl rings from retired players now addicted to pain medication?
Another argument is that professional athletes using performance enhancing drugs destroys the purity and integrity of professional sports.
So in other words, it's not that they are role models, it's that they were caught cheating at their chosen profession. So I guess we should also strip Academy Awards from an actress that uses diet pills and then strip away her Screen Actors Guild card? Should a super model who undergoes surgery to remove two of her ribs and make her lips puffy be banned from photo shoots? Aren't they "cheating" as well? Musicians who perform covers? Politicians who quote from Winston Churchill?
"But those things aren't illegal," I hear you cry. True, then professional athletes should be punished according to the law, and nothing else. Singling them out for additional punishment is discriminatory. Anabolic steroids are a Class III controlled substance, possession of which is punishable by up to seven years in prison according to Federal Law. Suppose an athlete is arrested for using steroids at the age of 18, serves his or her time, then wishes to start a new career at the age of 25? Sorry, banned for life. Get a job as a waiter.
We already have laws in place to punish people for using drugs. We do not need additional laws to punish people based on their career choice.