The official name is tetrahydrogestrinone. But it is better known as THG. The synthetic anabolic steroid is the latest performance-enhancing drug to set off warning bells in the offices of major professional and amateur sports organizations that chemistry may be making a mockery of yesterday's records in football, basketball, baseball, track, etc.

Not surprisingly, detection of the previously virtually undetectable THG has officials with sports organization and government agencies, and members of Congress thinking about or proposing bans against the substance and other steroids.

Clearly, THG and other drugs that improve performance should be outlawed. There should be no place for them in sports.

But anabolic steroids may be less the culprit in this unfolding scenario than a symptom. Americans need to look no farther than the sports altar, where millions of us worship regularly during baseball, football, track and other seasons. Our frenzy has helped to fuel the determination of some athletes to try almost anything, including drugs that can impair their health in later years, in order to excel.

This is a sports-oriented society. That isn't necessarily bad. Indeed, sports can help take our minds off our personal woes, can give us an opportunity to enjoy rooting for our favorite teams or individuals, and can provide a momentary oasis of sanity - where physical talent and rules reign - in an otherwise unfathomable, crazy world.

The problem comes when we lose our perspective of the importance of games and their value. Sports may be a microcosm of life, as some pundits contend, but they are not - or should not be - life and death or an end-all. Whether a team wins or loses shouldn't trigger a riot. Athletes should not be looking for drugs that will make them bigger, stronger and faster at the risk of the health in the years ahead.

Let's ban drugs. But maybe we ought to take a look inward, too.

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