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0957 Doping in Sports

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 957 – Doping in Sports.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 957. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Support ESL Podcast by becoming a member. Go to our website to find out how.

This dialogue on this episode is between Mia and Alex about using drugs to perform better when playing sports. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Mia: This is ridiculous! They’re going to suspend Eric Rodrigo for doping.

Alex: From what I’ve read, he failed his random drug test and they found performance-enhancing drugs in his system.

Mia: But he’s one of the best players on the team. Without him, we won’t have a chance to get to the playoffs.

Alex: He should have thought of that before he decided to cheat. I’m surprised they’re only suspending him for a few games. Last year, a player on another team was banned for life from the sport and stripped of his championship titles.

Mia: In my opinion, they completely overreacted and one of the best players in the game is off the field forever.

Alex: You don’t think that people who use steroids and other banned substances should be punished?

Mia: Not when the fans are the ones who really pay the price.

Alex: So you’re in favor of allowing performance-enhancing drugs in sports?

Mia: Sure, why not? If everybody is doping, it levels the playing field.

Alex: I am really glad you’re not the commissioner!

[end of dialogue]

Our dialogue begins by Mia saying, “This is ridiculous. They're going to suspend Eric Rodrigo for doping.” When someone says, “This is ridiculous,” they mean this is wrong, this is crazy. Something is happening that doesn't make any sense.

Mia says, “They're going to suspend Eric Rodrigo for doping.” “To suspend” (suspend) means to temporarily not allow someone to do something. If a student does something wrong at school – say, gets into a fight with another student – he might be suspended. The school may say, “You can't come to class for the next week. You're suspended. You have to stay home or go out and fight somebody on the street.” No, they don't want them to fight someone on the street. They just want the student to be punished. So, when you “suspend” someone from something, you're usually punishing them for doing something wrong.

This person, Eric, is being suspended for, or because of, “doping” (doping). “Doping” is the practice of using illegal drugs to improve your athletic performance. The drugs actually aren't always illegal. They’re just not allowed in certain competitions. This, of course, has been a problem in the last 25, 30 years in the Olympics and, more prominently, in the Tour de France. Alex says, “From what I've read, he” – meaning Eric – “failed his random drug test and they found performance enhancing drugs in his system.” A “drug test” is when you are tested to see whether you have taken any drugs. They could do this by taking some of your blood. That's a very common type of drug test.

A “random drug test” is when you don't know when they're going to test you. They often test athletes randomly so that the athlete can't prepare; the athlete can't stop taking the drug for a few days so that the drug test doesn't find anything in their system. Alex says that Eric's random drug test found that he was taking “performance-enhancing drugs,” sometimes referred to by their abbreviation “PEDs.” “Performance-enhancing drugs” are drugs that make you perform better – specifically, help an athlete perform better, make him or her stronger or faster.

When we talk about drug tests and trying to detect, or see, whether someone is using a certain kind of drug, we often use the term “system,” as in: “They found drugs in his system.” “System” (system) here just means in some part of your body. We talk about the “digestive system.” That's the parts of your body that allow you to eat food and get energy from that food. You have the “respiratory system.” The “respiratory system” consists of the parts of your body that allow you to breathe – your lungs, for example. When we say that they found PEDs in his system, we mean they found drugs in the blood sample that they took from him.

Mia says that Eric is “one of the best players on the team.” “Without him, we won't have a chance” – we won't get the opportunity – “to get to the playoffs.” In most sports, especially professional sports, at the end of the season – at the end of the period of time when the teams play – there is usually a competition that involves “playoffs.” The best teams from that year play each other to determine who is the very best. So, in American football you have playoffs that lead to the Super Bowl, where the two best teams play each other. In American baseball, we have the playoffs that lead to the World Series. In international soccer, you have the World Cup. Those all involve playoffs – teams playing each other to determine which team is the best.

Alex says that Eric “should have thought of that before he decided to cheat.” Alex is saying that Eric should have thought of the consequences of his actions when he took these performance-enhancing drugs. Alex says that he has cheated. “To cheat” (cheat) means to be dishonest in the way that you are playing or in the way that you are competing. You can also cheat in school. You can look at someone else's answers on a test. That would be also be considered cheating. It would also be considered stupid, if the person next to you doesn't know any more than you do.

Alex says, “I’m surprised they’re only suspending him for a few games. Last year, a player on another team was banned for life from the sport and stripped of his championship titles.” “To be banned (banned) for life” means you are not allowed to do something ever again. This is something that happens, for example, if an athlete does something really bad, really wrong. He or she might be banned for life from competing professionally in that sport. This doesn't happen very often. It does happen sometimes.

There was a very famous baseball player who was banned for life even though he was one of the best baseball players of the twentieth century, a man by the name of Pete Rose. We won't go into his story. It is possible to be banned for life, and that's what happened in our dialogue to another player – not to Eric, to someone else. This person also was “stripped of his championship titles.” “To strip” (strip) means to take something off. Typically, we use this verb in talking about your clothing. To take your clothing off – all of your clothing off – would be to strip. There are, of course, some people who do that professionally, but we’re not going to talk about that here.

In our dialogue, the verb “to strip” means to take away some honor or some prize or some award from someone because they've done something wrong. Our athlete who was banned for life was “stripped of his championship titles.” The term “titles” here refers to honors or awards that people win. “Championship titles” would be awards that you won for being the best team, for winning a competition that determined who the best team was or the best player was. In the Olympics, we give people who win a medal – either a gold, silver, or bronze medal. If they later find that that person cheated, they can strip that person of his or her medals. The medals represent the title, if you will – the award or honor.

Mia says, “In my opinion, they completely overreacted and one of the best players in the game is off the field forever.” “To react (react) to” something is to respond to something – to do something because something else has been done. “To overreact” means to react too strongly to something. If someone criticizes you by saying that your shirt is a little dirty, and you decide to take out a gun and shoot that person, that would be overreacting. You're reacting much too strongly given the situation. You shouldn't kill people who criticize you if you have a dirty shirt or whatever. You shouldn't kill anyone anyway, but definitely not for a criticism of your shirt.

Mia says the sporting organization – of whatever sport this is – overreacted by suspending Eric Rodrigo, and now “one of the best players in the game is off the field forever.” The “field” is the area, the ground, where they play on. You can have a football field. You can have a soccer field. You can have a baseball field. Alex says, “You don't think that people who use steroids and other banned substances should be punished?” “Steroids” (steroids) are drugs that are often made and given to athletes to make them stronger. I take steroids, for example, to do my podcasts. I need that extra strength. I'm kidding, of course. “Banned substances” are drugs or other things that you put into your body that are not allowed. “To ban” something means to prohibit it.

Mia says, “Not when the fans are the ones who really pay the price.” Mia is not in favor of punishing athletes because “the fans” – the people who watch the sport – “are the ones who really pay the price.” “To pay the price” here doesn’t refer to money, but rather any other sort of negative consequence or bad result that comes from some action. If you want to run a marathon – if you want to run 26 miles – you have to pay the price. The price may be physical pain. It may be having to work extra hard. It may mean having to get up early in the morning to go out and practice your running. That would be paying the price.

Alex says, “So you're in favor of allowing performance-enhancing drugs in sports?” Mia says, “Sure, why not? If everybody is doping, it levels the playing field.” Mia is saying that if everyone is taking drugs, then no one has an advantage. When no one has any advantage, we say the playing field is “level” (level). “Level” can also be a verb, “to level,” which means to make something even, so that one part is not higher than the other. In this case, one person is not better than the other. “To level the playing field,” then, means to make everything fair by not giving any person an advantage over the other.

Alex said, “I am really glad you're not the commissioner.” The “commissioner” (commissioner) is a person whose job it is to lead, or be in charge of, some typically government department, although it is also used in the United States for large sporting organizations. There is a commissioner, or a president, of Major League Baseball. There's a commissioner, or leader, of the National Football League. That's what Alex is referring to here. He's saying that he's glad that Mia is not in charge of – is not the commissioner of – whatever sporting organization they are a member of. We never learned what sport Mia and Alex are talking about here.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Mia: This is ridiculous! They’re going to suspend Eric Rodrigo for doping.

Alex: From what I’ve read, he failed his random drug test and they found performance-enhancing drugs in his system.

Mia: But he’s one of the best players on the team. Without him, we won’t have a chance to get to the playoffs.

Alex: He should have thought of that before he decided to cheat. I’m surprised they’re only suspending him for a few games. Last year, a player on another team was banned for life from the sport and stripped of his championship titles.

Mia: In my opinion, they completely overreacted and one of the best players in the game is off the field forever.

Alex: You don’t think that people who use steroids and other banned substances should be punished?

Mia: Not when the fans are the ones who really pay the price.

Alex: So you’re in favor of allowing performance-enhancing drugs in sports?

Mia: Sure, why not? If everybody is doping, it levels the playing field.

Alex: I am really glad you’re not the commissioner!

[end of dialogue]

She doesn't need any performance-enhancing drugs to write her scripts. I refer, of course, to our wonderful scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse. Thank you, Lucy.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. This podcast is copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to suspend – to temporarily not allow someone to have or do something; to not let something continue to happen for a defined period of time

* The company will have to suspend manufacturing until it can find the source of the problem.

doping – the practice of using illegal drugs to improve one’s athletic performance

* Student athletes must sign an agreement saying that they will not participate in doping.

random drug test – an unannounced blood test given at unpredictable times to determine whether someone has consumed alcohol or used drugs

* Truck drivers are subject to random drug tests, and if the test shows that they’re driving under the influence of drugs, they lose their job.

performance-enhancing drug – medicines or other chemical substances used to make an athlete perform better, such as being stronger or faster

* Is it possible to lift that much weight without the help of performance-enhancing drugs?

system – all the parts of a human body or another organism, or one group of those parts, such as the digestive system or the respiratory system

* Pollutants can be very damaging to the system, especially for young children.

playoffs – games played among many teams to determine which teams are the best and which ones should play in the championship (final) games

* Everyone was surprised by how well the Bobcats did in the playoffs.

to cheat – to play unfairly; to do something that is dishonest and unfair in order to win

* Don’t play cards with Samuel. He usually cheats.

banned for life – not allowed to do something ever again

* It doesn’t seem fair that Karim is banned for life from the sport for something he did as a teenager.

to strip – to take something away, especially in a dishonorable way

* The general was stripped of all his military honors due to misconduct.

championship title – the honor one or a team receives when winning an important game or tournament

* Sabrina has held the championship title for three consecutive years.

to overreact – to react or respond too strongly to something

* People who feel very stressed tend to overreact to small problems, treating them like major crises.

steroid – a drug that may be used in medicine, but is often used illegally by athletes to make their muscles bigger and stronger

* Bryant has huge biceps. It looks like he’s taking steroids, but he says he’s just lifting weights at the gym.

banned substances – an illegal drug or chemical, or something else that one can take that is not allowed

* If we find any banned substances in the dormitory, the student will be asked to leave the university.

to pay the price – to experience the negative consequences or bad results of something

* The new mayor promises that anyone who breaks the law will have to pay the price in prison.

to level the playing field – to make something fair by giving everyone equal access to some advantage

* Our program for students who come from poor families tries to level the playing field in higher education by giving them special help in colleges and universities.

commissioner – a person whose job is to lead a government group or a police department

* The city commissioner is determined to reduce crime and encourage business development.

Comprehension Questions
1. Where can one get a championship title?
a) At a random drug test
b) At the playoffs
c) At a government office

2. What does Mia mean when she says, “The fans are the ones who really pay the price”?
a) The fans are buying very expensive tickets.
b) The fans voted on the type of punishment the player should receive.
c) The fans suffer the most when a player is punished for doping.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to suspend

The verb “to suspend,” in this podcast, means to temporarily not allow someone to have or do something: “The first time Jake was caught drinking and driving, his license was suspended. The second time, his license was taken away permanently.” The phrase “to suspend disbelief” means to agree to believe that something unusual or not possible is true, especially when watching a movie: “Of course animated characters do things that aren’t possible in real life, but you have to suspend disbelief when you watch those types of movies.” Finally, the phrase “to suspend judgment” means to wait to make a final decision about something until one has more information: “The proposal seems like a great idea, but let’s suspend judgment until we’ve checked the financial projections.”

to pay the price

In this podcast, the phrase “to pay the price” means to experience the negative consequences or bad results of something: “Future generations will pay the price if we continue to harm the environment.” The phrase “to put a price on (something)” means to state the financial value of something: “You can’t put a price on good health.” The phrase “at any price” means no matter how difficult or expensive something must be: “Justina is determined to become a famous musician at any price.” Finally, the phrase “a price on (someone’s) head” refers to money paid as a reward for catching or killing someone: “Experience has shown that people are much more likely to tell police who committed a crime if there’s a price on that person’s head.”

Culture Note
Dr. John Bosley Ziegler and Steroid Use in the U.S.

Dr. John Bosley Ziegler was an American doctor who is most often associated with a steroid called Dianabol. He did not create Dianabol, but he used it to help “bodybuilders” (people who try to increase the size and definition of their muscles to improve their appearance, usually for competitions) build their “muscle mass” (how much muscle is on someone’s body). Dr. Ziegler was a bodybuilder, and he tested the drug on himself. Once he saw the results “firsthand” (in-person; through experience, not based on what another person has said), he began “administering” (giving a medicine) it to other bodybuilders, including the 1960 U.S. Olympic “weightlifting” (the sport of lifting as much weight as possible) team.

Later in life, Dr. Ziegler realized how dangerous steroids could be when they are “abused” (used in inappropriate ways). He learned that many athletes were taking much larger “doses” (amounts of a medicine) than he had recommended, and their health was suffering as a result. He “spoke out” (said something in public) against steroid use for building muscles, but the athletes didn’t “heed” (listen to; obey) his warnings, and Dr. Ziegler became increasingly concerned.

Dr. Ziegler said that he “regretted” (felt bad about something he had done in the past) having introduced the steroid to athletes. He once said, “I ‘wish to God’ (very strongly wish) that I’d never done it. I’d like ‘to go back’ (return to an earlier time and do something differently) and ‘take that whole chapter out of my life’ (change a major part of one’s past).” However, his “legacy” (what one is remembered for) continues and he is remembered as the man who introduced

steroid use to American athletes.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c