Question:

Hey Mr. Hamilton, I hope you are well. In the past I told you how I would like to walk on at the state university for basketball. I decided that I am going to give it a shot, it has basically become my obsession, all I can think about. One thing that I have a question about, it is kind of a biblical question, but it isn't. I know a big part of making the team is that I will have to come in looking impressive physically, and I only have nine months. Look at guys in professional sports, their bodies are built and they are specimens. I am 23 and have used steroids responsibly in the past. I don't believe nor any medical reports have said when you use testosterone responsibly it is harmful. When I used them they were for looks, basically in vain. Now I would like to use them to look more impressive for basketball. The more impressive I look the better shot I have of making the team. I do not believe they are harmful at all, as far as health is concerned, but that is not what I'm asking. I promised God that I would NOT use them; however, I really don't care about looks. I'd just be using them and lifting for this walk on opportunity. Could breaking the promise to God end my chance at try outs? I could lift naturally, but I wouldn't look as impressive as if I did steroids. What does the Bible say about breaking promises? I am always worried what if I don't get that extra edge. Do I miss my shot if I don't use them? Can you see my dilemma? Ugh. This is stressing me out.

Answer:

"LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart; he who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the LORD; he who swears to his own hurt and does not change; he who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved" (Psalms 15:1-5).

Your question is very much a biblical one because it deals with ethics. I hope you don't mind, but I would like to approach your question from several angles.

You promised you would not use steroids again for looks and you've kept that promise so far. Yet Satan has found a way to tempt you into breaking your word, you want to go out for the basketball team and you have gotten it into your head that looks are going to make the critical difference. I quoted the passage above to point out how critical it is for God's people to be faithful to their word. Even when we make a promise that we later find out leaves us in a bad position, we still keep our word. Jephthah is a excellent example of this. His story is in Judges 11. He made a rash vow to offer to God the first thing that came out of his door if he could come home victorious. But who greeted him was his own daughter, his only child. Even though keeping his vow meant cutting of his lineage, he kept his vow. See Jephthah's Daughter for more details.

Another verse to consider is the serious nature of making a promise to God. "Do not be rash with your mouth, and let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; therefore let your words be few. ... When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed - better not to vow than to vow and not pay" (Ecclesiastes 5:2, 4-5). Even if it should cost you the extra edge that you imagine would be needed, you are better off sticking to your word.

However, I'm shaking my head in wonder that you could think that basketball coaches could be so shallow. Looks are not what win games. The men who play basketball look buff because they work so hard at their game, but buff men don't typically make good basketball players. Even if you are not in absolute perfect condition, most, if not all, coaches are going to look at your talent say, "With a bit more practice and training, I could make that guy into the perfect team player." That is what will make the difference, not the definition on your abs or the size of your biceps.

David Sterns, Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, made this statement for a congressional hearing in 2005:

"The National Basketball Association (“NBA”), as a result, has a strong and continuing interest in ensuring that these drugs are not used by our players and that our games are conducted on a fair and legitimate basis. Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs also would pose serious risks to the health of our players, which provides a separate but equally compelling rationale for preventing their use in the NBA. Finally, it is simply the fact that young people – and, especially, young athletes – look up to and attempt to emulate professional athletes. It is therefore incumbent on the NBA and its players to keep steroids out of our game in order to send the message to all young fans that these substances have no legitimate place in athletic competition."

I know you think steroid use is safe, but the head of the NBA says it poses a serious health risk. Serious enough that they are forbidding their use. I am positive that if you used steroids, even testosterone, you'll get caught. It won't matter how good you are, you'll be off the team. I looked at the NCAA list of banned substances. Your university is a part of this association and abides by its rules. Testosterone and its various forms are all banned. Even on the remote chance that you weren't caught, would you want to live with knowing you only got onto the team because you broke its rules? Or, would you want to know you got onto the team because you were that good?

Finally, there is a reason why steroid use is banned. Not only does it enhance strength artificially, but it does so with severe detriments. "Serious health risks can be produced by long-term use or excessive doses of anabolic steroids. These effects include harmful changes in cholesterol levels (increased low-density lipoprotein and decreased high-density lipoprotein), acne, high blood pressure, liver damage, and dangerous changes in the structure of the left ventricle of the heart." [Wikipedia, see the article for details under "Adverse Effects"].

You think you are that good to make the team. Then prove it. You don't need to break rules or cause harm to yourself. Practice and train your heart out for the next nine months. If you make the team, then you'll know that you had that much ability and talent. If, for some reason, you don't make it, then you can look back with contentment knowing that you gave it your best shot. And in either case you will know you did it God's way and you are leaving a legacy for other Christians who follow you.