Donald (brightorange14) wrote,

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Steroids in baseball

Sigh. One week until pitchers and catchers report. I should be excited. The baseball news world should be filled with stories about spring training battles and where some prominent veterans (Manny Ramirez, Adam Dunn, Bobby Abreau, Ken Griffey Jr., Ivan Rodriguez...) will sign. Instead the news is going to be all about Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and the allegations that they each used steroids.


I grant that the activity is illegal, but it isn't any different to me than a player using a recreational drug, downloading copyrighted music illegally or any other supposedly "victimless crime"*. If the government has sufficient legally obtained evidence they can choose to prosecute. If the government doesn't have the evidence, doesn't try, or doesn't get the conviction then I don't care.

Performance enhancing medicine is commonplace in baseball. Lasik eye surgery. Advil. Rotator cuff surgery. Whichever over the counter supplements are still legal. These are all artificial performance enhancers. The difference between them and what are typically labeled as performance enhancing drugs is purely arbitrary. None of them should be used without proper supervision of a doctor, who must always put the patient's needs first and accurately inform the patient of the full effects and risks of the drug or procedure. If a batter can see the pitch better because of surgery that's great; better baseball for me to watch. If a pitcher arm heals faster because of pharmaceuticals that's great too; better baseball for me to watch.

The most common argument against players using PEDs are that it is an unfair advantage. Under the current CBA this is true, but in 2003 when the alleged infractions occurred it was essentially legal. The CBA stated that the tests were anonymous and that there was no penalty for a failed test. This was known to all players; therefore it was a fair advantage. Players on all teams knew that they could use these drugs without fear of reprisal from baseball or any other harm to their team. This was a level playing field.

Another common complaint is that it taints the record book. Somehow the assumption is that anything players used to train and compete before steroids is legitimate, but that modern PEDs are not. The problem with this is that the most hallowed record, the one broken by Bonds and that Rodriguez appears an even money bet to reach, the career home run record was previously held by an admitted user of illegal performance enhancing drugs. From Henry Aaron's autobiography I Had a Hammer: The Hank Aaron Story, "I was so frustrated that at one point I tried using a pep pill—a greenie—that one of my teammates gave me." Aaron went on to say that he stopped because the effect on him was negative; from which I think we can fairly infer that he would have continued using them if they had worked. The man Aaron replaced on the list? Babe Ruth, suspended multiple times by MLB for violating their rules and not subtle about violating federal drug laws by drinking during prohibition. All baseball statistics need to be taken in the contexts of the eras they were recorded in, whether it was an era of racial segregation, rampant amphetamine use or roughly 8.5% steroid use.

All of that said, Bud Selig should be suspended over this. The man gets the player's union to agree to the drug testing on the condition that the testing would be completely anonymous with no data saved to link individuals to samples or results. Breaching the CBA in a manner that is likely to cost an individual millions in endorsements is pretty darn serious. It's expected that another 97-104 names of players who also failed the tests in 2003 will soon surface. I don't want to hear anymore about this story, but if I'm going to I wish it would be in the form of a grievance by the union upheld by arbitration.

{sigh} Sorry, but the coverage of this always drives me mad. All I want to think about right now is who will win the World Series and who to draft for my fantasy team.

Oh, and for full disclosure, my performance in this rant was enhanced by the use of caffeine, pseudoephedrine and loratadine and artificial spell-checker.

*For the record I do not consider any of these crimes to be victimless. I have high regard for copyright laws. I disagree with the method of enforcement, but I do believe that the illegality of non-medicinal drugs is correct. These are sufficiently complex issues that I don't want to delve into them here any further than to state I believe in the innocence of anybody until they either plead guilty or are convicted.
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