Is it wrong to take PEDs?

Posted by T on December 15, 2007
Ethics, Sports

George Mitchell has finally issued his report on the use of “performance enhancing drugs” or PEDs in Major League Baseball (MLB). Predictably, this has set the nattering talking heads into a new buzz, some defending this or that of the accused, but most just tutt-tutting. It is hard to find anyone actually discussing the question, “what’s wrong with using PEDs?” So, like the Little Red Hen, but more importantly: in keeping with First Word’s mission, I will set out to do so.

The outrage does not seem to be focused on any long-term harm to his own body that might accrue when a player uses a PED; so I will ignore that issue as well. The outrage seems to cluster around the theme of fairness: the use of PEDs by some, but not all players (1) makes the games unfair, and (2) skews the statistics compared to a day when this was (presumably) not done, making the setting of new records unfair and therefore of no particular interest.

The main PEDs are anabolic steroids. Anabolic steroids increase the body’s ability to use protein to make muscle. The natural hormone testosterone is an anabolic steroid, and its greater presence in the human male accounts for men having incomparably stronger bodies, in terms of brute strength, than women. Negroes have even higher natural testosterone levels, which may partially account for their much greater propensity to violence, but also their musculature and prowess in sports.

Within the class of males – whether Negro or not – there is of course a genetically natural range of testosterone level. Although there is not going to be an exact correspondence to sporting achievement, there is undoubtedly some correlation. An analogy would be to performance at boxing and body weight. Boxers of greatly differing weight are not put into the ring together.

Now this observation already challenges the fairness objection to the use of PEDs. Given the unstated premise, is it not already “unfair” that men of differing testosterone levels should have to compete against each other? Already, separate records are kept for women and men in the same sporting event; and already, boxing categorizes by weight. By the same logic, shouldn’t men’s records be kept in categories of testosterone levels? “In the 3-5 PPM testosterone category, Charlie hit the record number of home runs, while in the 5-8 PPM testosterone category, Biff has it.” (Or whatever the appropriate units of measure are.)

Consider a runner A that complains that it is unfair for him to compete against another runner B that has boosted his testosterone level by the use of steroids. But what if the “boost” just equalizes the testosterone level that each, through no fault of his own, inherited from birth? Couldn’t the argument be turned around, to say that B’s use of the steroid is eminently fair, equalizing his birth-deficiency as it were?

I believe batters are allowed to wear an elbow brace. This strengthens the extension of the arm while swinging the bat. Is this not an “unfair advantage” over a batter not wearing one? And again: if someone has a congenitally weak elbow, would not the use of such a brace “level the playing field,” and thus restore nature’s unfair balance?

babeAt the end of the day, it seems like the definition of “fair play” is basically a Germanic and Anglo-Saxon convention, undoubtedly influenced by Christianity. We instinctively want the less-endowed athlete to compete with his natural superiors by sheer force of will. But the record books do not distinguish between the naturals and the by-force-of-wills. As a Germanic Anglo-Saxon, I ratify and advocate the continuance of our tradition.

But it doesn’t really stand up logically against assault from alien traditions. The case for having separate Aryan and Negro leagues and record books (to give just one example) makes just as much sense as the prohibition of PEDs.


4 Comments to Is it wrong to take PEDs?

  • yes the “fairness” issue is at large and, as you have stated, what is ‘fair’?  It is of note that many on [Mitchell’s] list are good players… ohh, but then there are many that are not. Wow, so can we perfectly show that all across the board that the enhancement is helping or “unfair”. NO. so now what?

    I also belive that in all fields these things have been going on for some time. This i believe is just another swipe by our all-too-powerful government to bring down another stronghold it has allowed to grow. By this i mean: first it was the AT&T break up, then Microsoft attack, then Big Tobacco attack, and now MLB. All these have in common the government snooping in and making laws that favor a group (fair?) then later on when the group gets out of hand smashing it down.

    On the other side what of an outfielder that has large hands and thus a bigger glove..thus allowing him to make amazing saves in the outfield. Or in basketball they do hand streching exercises to allow for the palming of the ball while dunking. You mentioned the elbow support but what of any other device that makes up for the lack in what ever area for some, but not all?

    I also suggest the comparison that since this is entertainment we compare it to the movies: What of the starlet that has breast enhancement of hip enhancement or lip work? This is not fair to those that are naturally made well by the creator.

    In the end it’s all about the buck and if there is some way that washington can get its hands on more they will and that is where we should ask …are you (washington) fair?

  • I don’t watch professional sports. It’s a bunch of people who are paid to entertain us, only I’m not entertained. I could not care less if they take Peds or not.

    Now, is it any less entertaining if they take Peds? No; it is more so. In a world driven by greed, where ticket prices have (so I hear) skyrocketed to keep up with salaries that have also (so I hear) skyrocketed, anything they can do to get the attention of the fan(atic)s who are entertained my this particular dog-and-pony show they consider acceptable.

    If they were unable to beat the records in the records books because the human body can only be pushed so far, they change the rules so their bodies can go further. It keeps the attention of the average hot-dog-eater, so they’ll keep paying top dollar for a seat.

    If they get criticized for using PED’s to beat the records books (in order to keep fan(addict)s interested, they will again change the rules; either to make the use of PEDs okay, or anything else they happen to think of, as long as they keep the attention of the fan(idiot)s who keep paying money to watch the circus.

    Now; give me a game with kids playing just because they want to; not because their parents tell them their future depends on it, or some coach has convinced them they aren’t human beings if they don’t win. That is probably good ball.

    They are not competing with anybody but themselves. They aren’t doing it for the fan(junkie)s; they aren’t doing it because some failed adult chooses to live their empty life vicariously through them; they are only doing it because they want to. They are not trying to be better than anybody. They just want to be as much as they can, on their own.

    Life (baseball) isn’t about competition against others. Greed is. Life is only about us, each of us, versus ourselves. Get back to reality people, and stop thinking what everybody else tells you to think.

  • Earl — the only distinction I would introduce into the first half of your post is to suggest that many fans, I think, hate what the games have become yet continue to watch in an “as if” mode, pretending that they are watching something they remember from a long time ago, or from their imagination. Thus, instead of only railing against what the fans seem to have become, we should try to imagine how we can rescue the situation “after the revolution” so to speak.

    On the second half of your essay, I would want to make even more distinctions. Even more generally than you have insightfully observed, I suggest that the problem the kids face is playing for their parents, and this begins from a very early age and is not confined to team or organized sports. This narcissism ratifies the life-world of the adult by way of a vicarious and retrospective repair of his own failings, and also reinforces the child’s own natural self-centeredness. I like your model of “kids playing just because they want to.” However, it seems like the game played because it is wanted does entail the desire to win, if it is genuine play. It is not exactly that the boy wants to play better than the other boy, but I submit it is also not merely an aerobic exercise where “competing against oneself” is the operating principle.

  • A “fantasy baseball” league of sorts? The game is played for money. If the owners and players perceive that fans get some use out of the game, they will be encouraged to continue. No, I’m afraid Baseball must approach death as a sport before the people who do it for money get back to reality. In actuality, it must cease to be profitable, for the good of the professional game.

    “Playing for the Parents” is a different type of problem. It embodies competition with others instead of one’s self. These others are not part of the normal rules of play, they are not your team, or the other team. A “game”, by definition, involves having a winner, and playing the game to win. However, a “game”, also by definition, involves voluntary play. A person must feel and be free to choose to play or not.

    There are (I’m indirectly quoting James Carse here, I’m good, but not this good) 2 types of games. Finite and infinite.

    An infinite game is one that goes on forever, we are required to play, but we can change the rules as we go along, so that the game can go on forever. Every one plays in an infinite game.

    A finite game is one where participation is voluntary, but we cannot change the rules. There are rules to determine what a team is, what each persons role is, when the game is over, who wins; everything.

    When parents cross the line, and turn a finite game into an infinite one, they betray the fundamentals of parenting. This is a selfish action on their part. The children simply don’t understand. They are simply naive and betrayed. Responsible adults should know better, but seem to not (or maybe they’re not responsible?).

    How does a selfish parent affect a child? It creates another selfish adult, competing with other adults, doing whatever it takes to try to “win” in an infinite game (complete with getting pissed off whenever the rules change. Ever done that before?).

    An infinite game, by Carse’s definition, can have no winner, since it is infinite, and played to continue the game. The act of crossing finite and infinite games with one another in a mind that cannot begin to understand the real meaning of “it’s only a game” is the problem. Competing against one’s self until the deeper meaning is understood is the only non-dysfunctional answer.

    This is where the concept of “sport” has failed; it can be a tool to help develop the intellect, but instead it only propagates selfish greed. This is why I do not watch sports.

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