As we reach adulthood, we often learn that right and wrong are not always clearcut. But often, what is right is very clear.

It's easy to imagine how confused young people must be when they watch the behavior of the adults around them. "Do as I say and not as I do," doesn't hold much water with today's young people.

This week, even non-sports enthusiasts are aware of the A-Rod controverxy. Yankees third-baseman Alex Rodriguez has been significantly penalized for illegal steroids use, a finding he is appealing.

A previously negotiated players' contract allows him to play ball during the appeal.

If the conclusion had not yet been reached, we would understand him playing in the meantime. But just like a person imprisoned for a crime is not set free as he awaits the outcome of an appeal, nor should A-Rod be allowed to play ball pending the appeal's result.

The negative effects of steroids use on the human body are well documented and we do not want our young people using them. That means that high-profiled, highly-paid athletes who use illegal substances must be held accountable when they do.

We must recognize that their achievements are now soiled and irrelevant to history. No Hall of Fame. A-Rod might want to behave as though nothing has happened, but we should not give him a pass.

Many young people look up to athletes, watching them play, wearing their T-shirts. They want to be just like them.


So when they hear that these idols have taken illegal substances to help them play better, and little to anything happens to them, what is the lesson? Is it that hard work wins the day, or is it that cheating is OK?

The threats posed by steroids use are not insignificant. The Mayo Clinic warns against the ir use, particularly in teens. They advise:

* Discuss ethics and proper training. Remind your teen that using a performance-enhancing drug is similar to cheating and, more importantly, could lead to serious health problems. Explain that a healthy diet and rigorous training are the true keys to athletic performance.

* Be clear about your expectations. Tell your teen that you expect him or her to avoid performance-enhancing drugs. Set rules and explain the consequences of breaking them. For example, if your teen uses performance-enhancing drugs, he or she has to quit the team.

What are the warning signs of performance-enhancing drug use? Possible red flags include:

* Behavioral, emotional or psychological changes -- particularly increased aggressiveness ("roid rage")

* Changes in body build, including muscle growth, rapid weight gain and development of the upper body

* Increased acne and facial bloating

* Needle marks in the buttocks or thighs

* Enlarged breasts in boys or smaller breasts in girls

Generosity and giving someone the benefit of the doubt can be a good move but not when it dismisses wrong-doing of this magnitude. It is a great priviledge to be in a position where young people look up to you. To let them down like this is reprehensible.

As the baseball season continues, and talking-heads blather about the A-Rod issue exhaustively, there is a lesson to be taught, and we should be very sure that we teach it. If we don't, our youth will learn from what they see, that A-Rod cheated and yet he continues to play ball as the most highly paid player in baseball.