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Enabling Behaviors in Sports

If there is one thing that seems to be consistent when it comes to sports, it is the denial of wrongdoing when accused of anything. Granted, there are legal ramifications many times when admitting to a crime, so it is somewhat understandable that athletes don’t come right out and say that “yea, I did that.” However, most of the time a simple statement that they can’t talk about the case is sufficient. That usually isn’t true when it comes to drug accusations though. Funny thing is, the general public doesn’t seem as concerned about the truth either.

Josh Gordon
Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Take recent suspensions to Josh Gordon and now Wes Welker. It is currently unknown what Welker is accused of taking, as his drug test simply is being reported as failing for amphetamines. Gordon on the other hand has multiple failures for drug and alcohol infractions and failed drug tests. More recently, when Gordon’s appeal was denied, he issued a statement that expressed disappointment in the NFL for not overturning their initial ruling. Welker already has pointed a finger at the NFL for the procedure of the drug test, and started to shift the blame to someone possibly slipping him something when he was at the Kentucky Derby, an event where he was making it rain with 100 dollar bills.

Obviously that behavior does not mean that he was high, but it doesn’t help the argument. If someone slipped something in his drink and he never did drugs, don’t you think he would panic when feeling altered instead of placing a bet? These are questions that those that work in substance abuse ask when presented with these stories. It is how we ultimately determine responsibility and accountability, which is the best way to improve oneself. That is what sports is ultimately supposed to be about, self-improvement. Welker said it himself.

Unfortunately, many people want to look at the NFL and the problem with their rules, still not accepting marijuana or Adderall into the culture. It is a systemic problem instead of individual responsibility. Josh Gordon didn’t say he was disappointed in himself for failing another drug test and admitting that he may have a problem, he was disappointed in someone and something else. Welker sounds like Ryan Braun. He may be innocent, it is just hard to believe with the history of drugs in sports. Why did he have to make a point to apologize to his teammates if he did nothing wrong?

Part of the problem is the acceptance from our culture. We make excuses and enable this behavior, which is why it doesn’t stop. Sports are meant to teach lessons, to learn communication, responsibility, teamwork and to have fun. There are positive stories in sports. The Bengals recently retained a player on their practice squad so he could continue to pay for his daughter’s cancer treatment. That is a team rallying around one of their members. Imagine Gordon’s and Welker’s teammates demanding accountability from them, what a difference that would make. Maybe they are. How about the rest of us doing the same, instead of making the story about changing policies.

Just because I don’t like a rule, doesn’t mean that it has to change, or that I don’t have to follow it, especially if I don’t like the consequences. That is a me problem, not someone else. My hope is that Wes Welker owns his behavior, but I am not optimistic. As for Josh Gordon, selling cars shows how much he believes that his behaviors are a problem. Hopefully fans start to demand more.

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