Performance Enhancement

Now that the Baseball Hall of Fame is having to directly deal with the Steroid Era, there are a lot of writers and fans grappling and arguing about how we should deal with steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in sports. It’s About the Money has probably the best take/summary on the issue I’ve read so far but I’m still mostly disappointed in the general reactions to the issue.

There are a lot of irrational people out there who are adamantly opposed to any steroid users being honored but who don’t base their opinion on anything more than their gut feelings. They believe the recent drug cheating is worse than all the previous cheating which has always occurred in baseball (and any other sport). But if you try and get any sort of consistency about their argument they start to jump all over the place in the same way a teenager argues—all guts, no coherency.

I’m more aligned with the people who believe in the “we didn’t exclude previous cheaters, why start now” school of thought—though even there, I’m not completely convinced by the arguments. The point that I find myself looking for (and failing to find) is that the whole argument appears to be based on there being an easily-distinguishable line: one side of which is cheating, the other side of which is legal.

I just can’t see it as being that simple. While I readily admit that there are obvious ways to cheat, it’s really a complete spectrum of supplements, training, drugs, etc. that athletes take and to say that the line is clear and easy to spot is just too simple a conclusion.

We non-athletes take the same spectrum of treatments and have to make personal choices about where our limits are. Some of us go to far into abuse while others try to be teetotalers. And we generally don’t work in the same sort of competitive environment or have to perform for other people the same way athletes do.

I just wish people would mention how everyone is part of the “fix it with a pill” mentality and how it’s not that simple to say exactly where cheating begins.

With regard to the hall of fame, I’m solidly in the compare each player with his peers camp. We can tell the rest of the story elsewhere. And it will be completely ridiculous to celebrate all the notable events in the steroid era and have none of those guys actually enshrined.

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