The steroid issue has been at the forefront of baseball for awhile now and it doesn’t look like it will soon change with Barry Bonds on the cusp of passing Hank Aaron for the all-time homerun record. Finding steroid users (or users of any sort of “performance enhancing drug”) in baseball has become a massive witch-hunt. One thing that fans and media members seem to overlook is that the difference between substances that are performance enhancing drugs and provide an “unfair” advantage versus substances that are “fair” is not (and should not be) clear.
What exactly is an “unfair” advantage? Why are steroids, a drug with a myriad of health risks, unfair? People are quick to site all of the players who have broke down (or worse) because of steroid use. So exactly what advantage do steroid users have? How often does it produce a better baseball player? I’m not necessarily saying that it doesn’t… I’m just asking if this is a question that anyone has bothered to explore.
The government, along with MLB, is launching a series of investigations (most noticeably the Mitchell investigation) regarding steroid use in baseball. So essentially, millions of taxpayer’s dollars are being spent to try to find out whether some players of a GAME did something that MAY be cheating despite the fact that this information is generally assumed to be unprovable. Millions of taxpayer dollars. I repeat that… because, well, it warrants repeating.
In the NFL this year, star linebacker Shawne Merriman was suspended for steroid use. (Ironically enough, the week following ESPN aired a nauseating puff story on his miraculous rise from homeless person to NFL star.) No one seems to care that we know, concretely, that a star player in football IS USING STEROIDS. If Albert Pujols failed a steroid test he would be reviled and declared a cheater. Shawne Merriman? Well he’s just a good football player apparently.
These sportswriters, fans, and government officials need to step down off their high horses. How about the MLB player who grew up in a privileged environment and always had access to the best equipment, trainers, and supplements? This is a fair advantage? For the record, I think it is unfair- because ALL advantages are unfair. Otherwise they wouldn’t be advantages.
I know in America we like to live by certain ideals when it comes to sports. We think there is a distinct difference between “God given talent” and… well… anything else. Our bodies consist of numerous chemical reactions. We manipulate these every day, with what we put into our bodies, be it food, vitamins, drugs, etc. It is naive to think that some ways of changing our bodies is clearly right while others are clearly wrong.
So am I rooting for Bonds to pass Aaron? No. But not because Bonds took steroids. But because Bonds is an asshole.
I am, however, rooting for Giambi to hit 74 homeruns this year.