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Sports Illustrated Explores Steroid Abuse in Pro Baseball

A 2012 article in Sports Illustrated explored the paths of four young pitchers in the Minnesota Twins minor league system. The aspiring stars started in the early 1990s during the height of pro baseball's steroid era. Steroids offered a short-cut for young players who wanted to gain an illegal edge over other players.

The article featured Dan Naulty, a former pitcher for the Twins and then the Yankees who decided to take steroids.When a supplier first injected Naulty with steroids he was immediately hooked. But today, Naulty acknowledges he was a cheater:

You didn't need a written rule. I was violating clear principles that were laid down within the rules…. I have no idea how many guys were using [drugs]. But I would assume anybody that was had some sort of conviction that this was against the rules. To say it wasn't cheating to me … it's just a fallacy. It was a total disadvantage to play clean.

Why did he cheat? Naulty admits he was caught up in the win-at-all-costs culture in baseball and fell for the love of money and superstardom. He also claims that no one ever challenged him to avoid steroids. He said,

They don't care if you have character. They don't care if you ruin your life. They care about performance. Nobody once ever [challenged my steroid use] because I was performing. I was getting bigger, and I had always been thin; and now they're telling me I look great, and I'm playing for the New York Yankees.

Similarly, Jeff Horn a minor-league teammate of Naulty's, also started using steroids after several mediocre years in the minors. He immediately gained muscle and improved his hitting, but was caught after taking a drug test in 2001. Horn was lured not by money but by the need to succeed and prove himself to others. He said,

If I had to do it again, those would not be the decisions I would make. It's something you want so bad, and you spent so many years in the minor leagues, and you're watching guys leapfrog you …. I just wanted to get there to prove to myself and the people who didn't have much faith in me that I could do it. It was not a decision to get as big as I could and make millions. I was looking for some kind of personal validation.

Possible Preaching Angles: (1) Character and Integrity—The athletes in this story were willing to cheat and lie (effectively "selling their souls") in order to get ahead.(2) Temptation—Both Naulty and Horn were tempted by the lure of success, fame, money, and personal validation. (3) Identity in Christ—These athletes (especially Jeff Horn) were seeking not just money but "personal validation." When our identity is secure in Christ, we don't need to strive to prove ourselves to others. (4) Confrontation and Accountability—According to Dan Naulty, nobody ever challenged his use and abuse of steroids. In authentic community, we hold each other accountable and speak the truth in love.

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