Volume 2, Issue 11, The 63rd Edition
By Angel Zobel-Rodriguez
First of all, my heartfelt congratulations go out to the men's and women's Team USAs after securing gold medals in both the bowling team events at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada this month. Mike Mullin brought home the silver medal in the men's Masters competition and Janette Piesczynski secured another gold for the women's Master's to add to the pile of team medals that will surely set off the metal detectors on the teams' trip home through the airport.
Bowling may not be in the Olympics yet, so the Pan Am Games are the closest chance for bowling's best amateurs to shine. There's the opening ceremonies, and of course, the medal ceremonies, complete with the national anthem and the U.S. flag. While they were there, they were treated like the other athletes in every sense of the word, including random drug tests.
Team USA bowlers, as with many athletes ranging from high school football players to college athletes and athletes in professional sports, have become so used to random drug tests to the point that they just shrug them off. They know the tests will happen, and if they have nothing to hide, they know they have nothing to worry about. They just go about their business--bowling.
On the other hand, one of my biggest peeves about the PBA and PWBA tours, is that despite being run by the members of their very own organizations, the players somehow have not seen the light. Whereas every major sport in America does random drug testing, helps players with substance abuse problems, and disciplines the players that refuse or are beyond help, the organizations of professional bowling either think there is no problem or refuse to see it.
Whether I think professional bowling has a drug problem or not isn't the point, because honestly, I don't think the problem is any worse in pro bowling than it is in any other aspect of society. Maybe we're lucky and there is no problem at all, but somehow, I find that idea to be a little too optimistic. The point is, without testing we'll never be able to say that with a clear conscience. And if a player is struggling with a dependency problem, there's no incentive to try to get help. When rumors abound about certain players, I cringe. There isn't a way to clear the rumors and innuendo when the organizations that govern the sport don't subject the players to random testing.
Given the poor image bowling suffers by nonbowlers, something as simple as random drug tests would go a long way to associate bowling with other sports by treating bowling like a sport and a business. And like other sports, I'm not asking for a witch hunt to find players with problems. A player that tested positive could be given confidential help and a set of contingencies set to their return, substance free. Wouldn't it be the business-wise thing to do, protecting their biggest asset--the players? What's that saying? Image is everything. From a marketing or public relations point of view, pro bowlers interact with the fans on a much closer level than almost any other sport. If a pro has a drug problem, it's certainly in the organization's best interest to have the player treated. It's also the compassionate thing to do to--treat the member who is in need of medical help.
Whether or not there is a drug problem among professional bowlers remains to be seen. But if testing is good for Major League Baseball and the National Football League, then maybe the PBA and PWBA could take a page from their books. If not, then professional bowlers are allowing rumor and suspicion to tarnish the image of the athletes in this sport.