The Media and Porformance-Enhancing Drugs

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.

8 Responses “The Media and Porformance-Enhancing Drugs”

  1. Jonathan says:

    So you’re saying, if I rob a bank and there happens to be no money in it, then I should be let of the the hook since ‘there was no gain?’

  2. Ron says:

    No he’s saying if you rob a bank and there’s only $50 in the vault you should be let off the hook because there wasn’t $100,000.

  3. JC says:

    The issue does not have anything to do with letting anyone off the hook. It’s about journalism. For all I know Michael Kay’s comments might encourage athletes to use HGH, instead of informing them that it is a waste of time.

  4. The Ankiel debate also seems to miss the point that HGH wasn’t banned at the time. Disucussion suggesting he did something wrong now is retroactive application of changed rules, which is silly.

    Let’s say we dont’ like Barry Bonds, and we now say you only get two strikes and you’re out. Do you go back and erase every home run he hit with two strikes, or call him a cheat for hitting with two? No; it’s just a changed set of rules.

    Using something that is not prohibited isn’t like robbing a bank; and using something that is prohibited is more like speeding than it is bank robbery.

    Sometimes speeding is dangerous, and reckless, and should be stopped, but not always. And we don’t record every instance of speeding in your on-board computer so you can pay a monthly fine for every time you go fast, because most people would find that invasive and unwarranted.


  5. Andrew says:

    JC, I’m sure you know you’re describing the prisoner’s dilemma except there is a solution to getting the best results (ie testing). A possible explanation for opposition to testing could be that players fear a positive test result in the future as a result of previous use (I do not know how long drugs such as anabolic steroids or HGH stay in your system, but I imagine the players do not know either).

  6. Josh says:

    I briefly tuned in to ESPN on Sunday morning only to find the commentary and reporting utterly unwatchable. I wish that the journalists that they brought on Sports Reporters would actually do a little research before shooting from the hip and espousing baseless claims.

  7. Shaun says:

    Something I wrote about on my blog that the media should be covering much more is PEDs role in injury recovery, and where to draw the line between using PEDs for quick and better recovery versus using PEDs to gain an unnatural advantage.

    The media seems to ignore the fact that athletes take cortisone shots when they have an injury and probably use other substances that may be considered drugs that help them recover from injury. The media seems to be overlooking a major advantage of steroids, for the most part, and the fact that there is a gray area.

  8. Conrad says:

    What’s being said is that these nationally reputable “journalists” are just throwing their own half-brained theories out there with NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER to back it up. From Michael Kay to Howard Eskin (Philly) to whomever, these are just self-aggrandizing brain farts about how they are insulted and their feelings are hurt that these players are cheating. BS. No one cares. No journalist can be empathetic, because no journalist knows anyone who has died from steroids, no journalist has lost $10 million from their last contract because of steroids, no journalist has read the science on steroid use. They are just feuling emotion of the brain dead mass public. So what the article is really sayting is just shut the hell up on this agenda…