I’m still reading the Mitchell Report and following the surrounding commentary. These are some of the things that pop into my head, in no particular order.
— Players are in a prisonner’s dilemma game, from which they cannot unilaterally remove themselves. Players would prefer not to use steroids, but incentives may compel them to do so. “If I don’t use, but other players do, I will look bad. If I use, but other players don’t, then I look good. Therefore, no matter what the other players do, it is in my interest to use.” This unfortunate payoff structure results in a sub-optimal outcome. Players want out.
— Owner interest in drug testing has been about recreational drugs, not performance-enhancing drugs. League actions in the 1970s and 1980s were purely a response to the “Just Say No” paranoia.
— There is strong scientific evident that anabolic steroids improve performance.
— There is no scientific evidence that demonstrates that human growth hormone improves athletic performance.
— Many performance-enhancing drugs are expensive. There is a high probability that adolescents who use these drugs get them from parents.
— The Helen Lovejoy objection—“Will someone please think if the children”—to steroid use in baseball is a poor one. Athletes and entertainers make horrible role models. This is not because this class of individuals are inherently bad, but that they are in the public spotlight for something other than their upstanding behavior. Therefore, it should not be surprising when they let us down in a way that many people around us do. Thus, suggesting that we govern performance-enhancing drugs to protect children is a horrible justification for wanting drugs out of baseball.
— The offensive surge of the present baseball era is probably not the result of performance-enhancing drugs, though steroids may have contributed in some individual cases. Offense improved with a jolt in 1993-1994, not gradually as an invasion of steroids would cause. In addition, since MLB began to enforce testing with punishments, offense has not returned to previous levels. Expansion, new ballparks, changes to bats and balls are likely contributors that had a greater impact.
— Performance-enhancing drugs were not prohibited in baseball prior to the 2002 Joint Drug Program. Fay Vincent’s 1991 memo and other commissioner proclamations were no more binding than a bill that is passed by Congress, but vetoed by the President. Arbitrators would not uphold the memo as the law of baseball. It was not until 2002 that the players and owners agreed to a testing and enforcement program. A second positive test was a punishable offense in 2004, but there was no sanction for first-time offenses until 2005.
— That steroids use without a prescription violates federal and state laws is not sufficient to declare their use in baseball to be illicit. If it was, there there would have been no need to explicitly ban them in the official baseball rules. Arbitrators have not been willing to uphold suspensions for legal violations.