So far, so fast, in the PED wars

Just a decade ago, the MLBPA fought tooth-and-nail against any form of testing for performance enhancing drugs, even non-invasive urine testing.  Today profootballtalk has confirmed that the NFLPA, without rancor or even any real public debate, has agreed to submit its membership to random testing of the most invasive type — blood extraction.  We’ve come so far, so fast. (I find it to be an incredible concession by the NFLPA. Your author is a certified trypanophobic — I would not submit myself to random blood testing under any circumstances).

Most of the “credit” for this radical change in the debate goes to the United States Congress. (I use the air quotes around the word credit because I am a PED Debate skeptic. I think there is a lot of McCarthyism, and lack of fundamental distinction, at play here. HGH, for instance, is not a “steroid” of any sort and has never been proven to have any “performance enhancing” qualities of any kind, yet most of the public sees no distinction between the terms).  It was the United States Congress that changed the PED debate over night through the use of its subpoena power. The Congress dragged the leaders of baseball and its union before themselves and the cable cameras, wrapped each of them soundly on the wrists, and in the process shamed each of them into adopting a radical change of public position. No longer could the owners look the other way at baseball’s gorillas, no longer could the players resist the measures needed to render those gorillas extinct.

The history of the PED debate is so dramatic that it puts the lie to the old shibboleth “you cannot legislate morality”. You sure as hell can.  Laws and lawmakers have always had the power to establish public morals.  Change a law, and you can change public attitude over night.  You don’t think so?  Transport a cigarette smoker from the 1950s to today and ask him if he can discern any difference in public attitudes toward smoking. He would think you transported him to a different planet, and it all has to do with public smoking laws and legislative action to demonize second hand smoke.

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2 Responses to “So far, so fast, in the PED wars”

  1. Devin Dignam Says:

    The whole PED debate is stupid; there are two main reasons for banning PEDs:

    1. Athletes who take PEDs have an unfair advantage over “clean” athletes.

    2. Athletes who take PEDs are damaging their health and need to be protected.

    Both reasons are misguided. There is no “even playing field” when it comes to athletics; many athletes have genetic, financial, or environmental advantages. Also, by banning PEDs they create an even larger advantage for those who use PEDs.

    As far as the health argument, regulating and monitoring PEDs is better than outright banning them. Not to mention that very few studies have been done on medically supervised moderate doses of PEDs.

    Of course, just because I have no problem with athletes using PEDs doesn’t mean I would touch the stuff. At least, not until more research has been done.

  2. Dan Says:

    To me, the reason to ban PEDs (whatever those may actually be) is more of a combination of Devin’s two points. It’s that taking them can damage one’s long term health (and yes, I understand that there is some debate over what the consequences might be) and it’s unfair to ask someone to risk that in order to keep up with those who do.

    Obviously, to be a pro athlete, you have to make sacrifices. Time away from family and loss of privacy are two biggies. Then, of course, there are the long term physical effects from the daily wear and tear on the body, especially for football players. But those things are the natural issues that come from being an athlete.

    To ask a player to use steroids or some other PED that could seriously hurt them down the road, in ways greater than just a bum knee, so that he can keep up with his competition, is simply not fair. An athlete shouldn’t have to make the choice to sacrifice his health and the welfare of his family just because somebody else doesn’t care about his own health.

    There are some negatives that result from being a pro athlete are are just inevitable, things that come with the territory. Damaged health from PEDs is not one of them.

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