Yes: any substance that has harmful effects on a players’ health should be banned. And Harrison should be punished for breaking the rules. And I’d love to see harmful steroids and supplements eliminated.
First, many of us break the rules every day - stealing from work, lying on taxes, speeding, intentionally running red lights, watching or listening to copyrighted material online, bloging at work thus stealing company time, etc, and no one calls us "liars, cheaters, and thieves" - yet we are.
The fact is many of our favorite players use steroids, HGH, banned performance-enhancing substances, etc - they just haven't been caught (I'd bet a large sum that Harrison isn't the only well-loved Patriot who has used questionable substances). I'd also wager that almost all championship teams of the last 20 years across all leagues include prominent users, so the Pats’ record is no more or less tainted than anyone else.
Steroids were prevalent in baseball during the 70s. But up until the last few years, testing in baseball has sucked. This means it is possible that many of your 70s & 80s "pre-steroid era" baseball heroes juiced. Yet they will never be held accountable because we can't go back in time and test them. All the while they can act "shocked" and "disgusted" that today's players juice up.
The only players being called "cheaters and thieves" are the ones that get caught. And NFL players are on the cutting edge of "supplements" - legal, illegal, or not-yet-but-soon-to-be-illegal. If you read about the pro-sports/dietary supplement industry, you'll see that most players are taking high-tech "supplements", some of which are not banned or untestable. Remember, when McGwire was taking Andro, it wasn't banned or illegal.
There is a rule, and Harrison broke it. We as fans should be mad for several reasons: his suspension lets his team down, lets us down, and he hurts his future health and potentially his family.
Again, you break a rule, you get punished. But I wonder: if taking a performance-enhancing substance is cheating, are all performance-enhancing substances cheating, or only the ones currently illegal or banned by the league? And if we don't know the extent of who is using which substances - banned or not banned - is it right to use such strong words as "liar, cheater, and thief" for Harrison to draw contrast to the non-positive testing players, some of whom are users but have not been caught?
I'm not suggesting that if Harrison is closer to the rule than the exception that the norm should be acceptable - a norm of dangerous substances should not be acceptable; I am saying that this problem lacks a clear binary. Just because a player hasn't been caught doesn't mean that a player is clean. There is enough evidence of rampant performance-enhancing substance use that no professional athlete is 100% beyond suspicion, therefore Rodney Harrison, while a rule breaker, is not the horrible black stain the media has made steroid users out to be in the last 10 years. He is a guy who f'ed up, just as the rest of us are inclined to do.
Let Rodney do his penance. He’s an old, oft-injured, exciting football player, not a Senator, Attorney General or President. I look forward to seeing Rodney (who, by the way, is considered by fellow players the NFL’s dirtiest) back in the lineup and hitting the crap out of opponents from week 5 through the post season.