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?
At 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.