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Sunday, February 8, 2009

Shock and Outrage! (Yawn!)

The ongoing revelations of drugs in sports long ago lost their power to shock.  Still, the Solipsist was somewhat taken aback to find out that even Alex Rodriguez has dabbled in the juice.  Now, anything that embarrasses the New York Yankees can't be all bad, but this does raise the question of whether ANYONE is clean.

And you know what?  It really doesn't matter.

That's right.  It doesn't matter.  Not just in the sense that sports, inherently, don't matter--they don't, and this is coming from a sports fan.  But the use of steroids just doesn't matter because when you think about it, what's wrong with it?  Are steroids bad for you?  Well, yes, of course they are.  But by now, everyone knows this.  People who choose to use steroids or other performance enhancing drugs with potentially unpleasant side effects are, in fact, making a choice.  And, frankly, a rational one: If the potential payoff for people who can throw a ball a little bit farther, or run a little bit faster, is disproportionate, than why would any reasonable human being not take chances in order to increase his or her productivity?  Plenty of people smoke cigarettes and/or drink and/or partake of  other harmful substances without even the upside of a lucrative sports career.

Are performance enhancing drugs risky?  Well, so is sports itself.  You don't believe me? How many of you would willingly stand 60 feet away from a man throwing a ball at you with lethal force?  How many people have been paralyzed playing football?

But, you say, it's cheating.  In what sense?  If you claim that it gives some people an unfair advantage over others, you only need to point out that it is not merely hitters who use enhancements (see Roger Clemens).  In other words, if a certain percentage of hitters are doping, it is reasonable to assume that a similar percentage of pitchers is doing the same.  If you cheat in order to negate the effects of another person's cheating, are you not merely maintaining the status quo?

It ruins the integrity of sports?  Maybe.  But if you think of the olympic ideal--"Stronger, Higher, Faster"--aren't performance enhancers really just helping athletes attain it?  The Solipsist is no great fan of Barry Bonds, but it must be noted that steroids--while possibly making it easier to reach the home-run record--did not CAUSE him to break the record. Steroids do not enable people to hit home runs.  The Solipsist could treat himself with the cream or the clear or anabolic steroids or plutonium, and he still would not be able to hit a baseball out of the infield: It's a skill that is more or less unrelated to physical strength.

The saddest thing about Barry Bonds (and yes, the assumption here is that he DID use performance enhancers) and Alex Rodriguez is that these are first-ballot hall of famers without the use of any drugs.  No, Bonds may not have broken the record; he would have hit a "mere" 500 or so home runs.  The reports on Alex Rodriguez indicate that he used anabolic steroids in 2003 (before there were any penalties for using them), but one would assume that he has not used them since, even though he continues to put up garish numbers.

The Solipsist feels that people should be allowed to use whatever they want to use to gain an edge, as long as it is done freely and openly.  If people feel the need to use steroids, let them.  And let everyone else know they are using them (that should take care of the integrity issue). 

The truly scandalous drug revelation revolves around Michael Phelps.  Not that he smoked pot: He's 23, why wouldn't he?  The scandal, of course, is in everybody's "Shocked!  Shocked" reaction.

Wouldn't it have been refreshing if, instead of prostrating himself before the gods of sport and commerce, Phelps had just said something like, "I apologize to my fans who may be a bit disillusioned, but I'm a human being, I smoked marijuana, I didn't hurt anybody, and we all need to get over it and mind our own business"?  Maybe it could even have started a long-overdue conversation on legalization.  Probably too much to hope for.

So to recap: Athletes can neither use steroids (which make you perform better) or marijuana (which makes you perform worse).  One wonders if Phelps' competitors would really have complained much if Michael had taken a hit before some of those races.

1 comment:

  1. The whole Phelps brouhaha would never have happened in Canada. Not that I'm crowing or anything. I'm just sayin'.