The Tempest in the MLB Teapot
by, 12-16-2007 at 01:12 PM (1194 Views)
Okay, so it's a corny title. It is, however, appropriate if you consider that the circumstances that have brought MLB to this particular point in time is a perfect storm. That makes the term "tempest" appropriate.
So how, exactly, did we reach this point in MLB? Competition has equaled survival since the dawn of time. It's a natural part of the human condition. If you are a cave man and you've got a limited food supply available, then I think you can be legitimately forgiven for using every tactic in the book to make sure that your family is fed. Beyond that, though, I firmly believe that there is a limit to what is and is not acceptable in a competitive society. Cheating to win doesn't cut it in my book. Neither does the excuse that "such-and-such" isn't specifically banned by the rules, so it isn't technically cheating. Please. Peddle that manure-laden logic elsewhere. I don't have a garden and I don't use compost for my houseplants. Besides, you need a nutrient-management permit in most states these days to spread manure.
Major League Baseball got itself into this mess through a combination of ineffectual administration, refusal to acknowledge the problem early on in the performance-enhancing drug (PED) game, and a powerful players' union.
The media and public furor that heralded the formation of the Mitchell Commission and its subsequent report is an ultimate consequence of the players' union continually stonewalling MLB's efforts to enact testing and punishment policies with teeth to bring PED-based cheating to a screeching halt. The fact that MLB didn't stick to its guns and hold out for the toughest policies possible does not help matters, either. Whether or not this is a consequence of the desire to avoid a repeat of the 1994 strike is hard to say, but it stands to reason that the mass defection of the fan base and the slow return to pre-strike ticket sales may have played a role in the reluctance of the commissioner's office to force the drug policy issue in post-1994 strike negotiations.
Having said that, part of the problem is that hormone PEDs by nature are normal products of the human body, and thus notoriously difficult to detect using traditional drug-testing methods. That's an issue for the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries to tackle and they are doing just that. The larger problem is the prevailing attitude that using PEDs to get ahead has become acceptable in the sports world outside of the governing and judging organizations.
Using an instrument not employed by all of your team members or competitors to gain a competitive advantage is, by any stretch of the imagination, cheating. If NASCAR gets it (and the fact that they generated astronomical fine and suspension numbers for drivers, crews, and teams alike this past season indicates that they do), then it stands to reason that other sports should be able to figure out this simple dictum, too. It's not rocket science.
Using pharmaceutical agents for non-approved purposes, especially for non-medical sports-performance non-approved uses is wrong. Period. If MLB is smart, they'll learn from this and clean up their act on all levels. So will the rest of the sporting world.