It’s common to hear sports commentators today refer to the current era of sports to be tainted. From Barry Bonds to Floyd Landis to Rick Ankiel, athletes in search of fame and fortune will stop at nothing to gain a competitive edge. It all seems so simple, and fits within a generally accepted view of human nature. But, the desire to dig no deeper than this baffles me.
On Sunday, I watched The Sports Reporters on ESPN , and heard Michael Kay say something to the effect of “we know that HGH can help you just as much as steroids” [This is not a direct quote but fits the spirit of what he said]. There is no evidence of this, yet that didn’t stop the panelists from questioning why MLB doesn’t implement blood tests for HGH. No discussions of costs, feasibility, or quantification of damage to the game. We’re arguing about policy off faulty assumptions. It seems that reporters are going out of there way to avoid the science. Isn’t the first step to become informed about the subject? Why does this ignorance persist?
The other concept that seems to get muddled in the discussion is the incentive to use PEDs by players. Apparently, the players and owners are in on this together. Owners want big performances so they turn a blind eye, which has some merit. But also, the players, as a group, want to use PEDs to get bigger contracts, so the union resists testing. This doesn’t make sense unless players are extremely dense. Players are valued relative to one another. 40 home runs isn’t as valuable today as it was 20 years ago. If everyone takes steroids, then no player gets better than any other; however, all players face negative health consequences of using drugs. The natural world is certainly preferable to the everyone-takes-steroids world—same pay, no side effects. The players have every incentive to stop PED use where they think rogue players are getting an edge. Why do players worry about more drug testing then? It’s intrusive, there are false positives, and having your body fluids on file gives your employer access to important private medical information (given all of the leaks to the media, can you blame players for being suspicious?). My guess is that there are some players who use steroids, but that the use is far from widespread.
It’s time for the media to stop and take a breath and look at what it is doing. Are you following or pushing a story? The NY Daily News talked to a doctor about legitimate uses of HGH but forgot to ask about its performance-enhancing effects. Do the allegations make sense and is there a chance that accused athletes may be innocent? See the Floyd Landis saga. He might be guilty, but the process has done nothing to instill any confidence in me that they are nabbing actual dopers.
The players may be tainted, but the journalists aren’t looking any better. It’s time for editors to stand up and demand accountability.