United States

Performance Enhancement Drugs

By Bonnie Weinstein

Athletes like Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong have been raked through the mud by the press for allegedly taking performance enhancement drugs in order to increase their chances of winning for their teams. Ironically, these are athletes who are in top physical shape to begin with. But so are all the other teams’ athletes. And these drugs give them an edge—a winning edge. And winning in commercial sports is a big thing. The owners like it when their teams win. And this is the underlying reason athletes turn to these drugs in the first place. Huge profits result from the wins—the biggest profits going to the owners and their advertising clients. That’s why corporations sign advertising contracts with winning athletes—because they make them money and making money is what the corporations are all about.

Doping, while widespread in sports, is considered heinous—especially when the athlete is caught and exposed. The owners cry crocodile tears and react in indignation when one of their team players are caught. They play it up to the hilt to put the blame solely on the individual athletes, absolving themselves of any guilt.

Certainly they didn’t give any of the money back they made selling advertising during the competitions these athletes participated in. Neither do they go after the pharmaceutical companies that design these drugs. Yet the athletes taking these drugs and putting their health at risk in order to perform better for their owners become the pariahs, and the owners self-righteously condemn, dethrone, and disgrace them.

Student performance enhancing drugs are a different matter

Every day tens-of-thousands of children are given drugs designed to improve their performance in school. And it is looked upon as not only a good thing, but a necessity. Ordinary childhood behaviors are re-diagnosed as “disorders.” And drugs are prescribed to help children adapt to irrational behavioral rules and regulations—like six-year-olds forced to sit still and pay attention to a teacher for six hours a day—in overcrowded public school classes.

And they work. Kids cope better in their oppressive school environment when they’re on the drugs. Some doctors even prescribe these drugs to help kids get better grades even when they are not having any behavior problems. How these drugs will effect these children in the future is an unknown that those pushing these drugs do not pay attention to.

All parents are told is that the drugs will help their child improve in school. How is that different than athletes taking drugs to improve their performance?

To be sure, teachers are not to blame for the drug-pushers or the deteriorating conditions of the schools for the 99 percent. Teachers must try to teach 30 or 40+ children in one classroom—children living with increasing troubles and hardship due to the declining economy. They are the victims along with our children of capitalism’s assault on public education and on the health and welfare of children.

School for the children of the

You can be sure Melia and Sasha Obama are not being drugged, nor do they have to sit still and shut up all day in an overcrowded classroom. They go to Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., the same school that Chelsea Clinton and Tricia Nixon Cox went to.

The tuition at Sidwell is $33,268 for the “Lower School” and $34,268 for the “Middle and Upper Schools”—hot lunch included. So, what else do they get for their money?

For the “Lower School:”

All classes, with the exception of one third grade and one fourth grade, have team teachers. Individual class sizes range from one teacher for every ten students in the lower grades to one teacher for every 16 students in some fourth grade classes. …A full-time Learning Specialist provides support for students who experience learning difficulties. If necessary, students may be referred to a consulting diagnostician for further evaluation.”

For the “Middle School:”

“Fifth and sixth graders are grouped in homerooms of approximately 16 students each. Students take English and social studies with their homeroom teacher and may be regrouped for math. They study Spanish, science, the arts, library skills, technology, and physical education outside of the homeroom.”

For the “Upper School:”

“Classes, which have an average of 14 to 16 students, are informal and are conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The small class size permits individual attention, group discussion, and close interaction between students and teachers. Ninth and tenth grade students take five major courses per year. Eleventh and twelfth graders take four or five major courses.”1

This is how every school should be. But, instead of cutting down class sizes and re-introducing the arts and physical education back into our schools and expanding on them—our working class children are being drugged so that they can adapt to larger class sizes, deteriorating classrooms, armed police roaming the hallways and metal detectors at the doors. And to prepare them for a menial job at minimum pay—or, join the Army!

Our children on drugs

According to an article that appeared on AlterNet on October 18, 2012 by Evelyn Pringle and Martha Rosenberg titled, “How Kids are Getting Hooked on Pills for Life,”2 (also included in this issue of Socialist Viewpoint) children in public schools are being diagnosed with everything from preschool depression, Autism, Bulimia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), Asperger’s Syndrom, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and MDD (Major Depressive Disorder), PBD (Pediatric Bipolar Disorder), to name a few. And, not incidentally, these diagnoses mirror the massive proliferation of new, Big Pharma drugs being developed and prescribed to our children—and their parents have to pay for them!

So commonly are the drugs being dolled out that a song was written for the 10-year-old Bart Simpson character on the animated show, The Simpsons. Bart’s schoolboy antics earned him a prescription for Ritalin. The song goes like this with Bart singing to the tune of “Popeye, the Sailor Man:”

“When I can’t stop my fiddlin’

I just takes me Ritalin

I’m poppin’ and sailin’, man!”3

Not only are the drugs being increasingly marketed to millions of fearful parents who are trying to cope with increasing economic hardship and degenerating schools and the resultant resistance of our children to it, but Big Pharma is raking in billions of dollars in profits at our children’s expense.

Coping in school is practice for coping with second-tier employment and enduring hardship

According to an October 23, 2012 article in the New York Times by David Leonhardt titled, “Standard of Living Is in the Shadows as Election Issue”4:

“The pay gap between college graduates and everyone else is near a record. Despite the long economic slump—and the well-chronicled struggles of some college graduates—their unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent. …If educational attainment rises, more people will be able to get jobs that benefit from technology and global trade, rather than suffer from it.”

This is not true. The opposite is true. The more people who graduate college, the higher the unemployment rate will be among college graduates. There are not an unlimited number of high-paying jobs. Just ask all those college graduates now working at Starbucks!

And any chance of earning a comparable living in the trades or industry has been usurped by second and third-tier pay scales that condemn our children and grandchildren to a life of poverty and debt—and now drugs so they will continue to sit still through it all and take it, and not make a peep.

Or that’s the capitalists’ plan, anyway. Only we workers can put a monkey wrench in that plan—if we organize a massive fight against it, that is—and demand that all our schools be like Melia’s and Sasha’s Sidwell Friends School.

1 “Our Academic Program” Sidwell Friends School