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Fallen Idols: Therapist On Talking To Kids About Doping Athletes

By Steven Schlozman, M.D
Guest Contributor

Lance Armstrong. Sammy Sosa. Mark McGwire. And now Ryan Braun.

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Andy Miah/flickr

These athletes share an awful lot in common. They’re all celebrated professional sports stars. They are now — and always have been — amazing athletes. And, they all fell hard from the exalted pedestals on which we seem intent on placing them.

Armstrong, Sosa, McGwire and Braun all used performance enhancing drugs. How do you tell your kids that their sports heroes are no longer heroes? Do the stars stop being heroes to your kids? How do you tell an eight-year-old that the homeruns Sammy Sosa hit are somehow not real? They sure looked real when the made their way out of the park…

A common and more general question thus rears its head for fans and, even more importantly, for the parents of young fans. What do we tell our kids when their idols fall from perceived grace?

We can use the ongoing issue of performance enhancing substances as a primer for these discussions. In fact, this is a more complicated issue than at first might appear. After all, we tend as a culture to have a binary view of our athletes. Spend five minutes on Sports Radio, and you’ll get that message. Athletes are either gods or they’re bums. There isn’t a whole lot in between.

In fact, developmentally, we tend to view the professional athletes in our world with the cognitive level of an eight-year-old. Continue reading