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Steroids to one day be considered quaint

Dec 31, 2009, 2:56 PM EDT

You think the Hall of Fame debates about Mark McGwire are thorny? Wait until my son strikes out 500 dudes in 2030 with the help of a bionic elbow:

As advances make robots act more like us, titanium parts and
artificial aids can give humans bionic capabilities. “I think this will
be the decade when we cross over from people who consider having
implants to tackle disabilities to people who consider surgery for
their healthy bodies to improve performance,” says Mr Saffo.

Sports
people are already exploring the possibilities – for example, baseball
pitchers have been seeking surgery to replace a tendon in their
throwing arm in a procedure that can make them pitch faster.

Bill James, as he usually is, was right when he wrote this past summer that, in the future, everybody is going to be using steroids or their pharmaceutical — or in this case mechanical — descendants.  Rather than freak out about this, we’ll be better served to actually think about it a bit.

The key issues here are (a) risks and (b) disclosure. Once the risks of any performance-enhancing measure are limited or eliminated, and once everyone knows what everyone else is doing, we’re going to be in a totally different world, PED-wise.

And then, just like we’ve done with every other technological advancement,  we’re going to have to figure out, as a society, how to think about it all in the grand scheme of things.

  1. Lawrence From Plattekill - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:06 PM

    You mean like we stopped demonizing marijuana?

  2. Chris Simonds - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    So…. why not just watch robots or androids compete, and may the best team of engineers win? Or just eliminate all those high priced stadiums and things and make it all fantasy leagues, all the time.

  3. Joe Tetreault - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:37 PM

    James’ points were well made. And I agree. Craig, if you don’t mind me asking you to recollect your old gig, are the harmful side-effects of steroids the primary causal factor for legally including them among controlled substances?

  4. Wells - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:47 PM

    The whole thing pretty much poses the question about whether sports will be around in the future: more specifically, will we care about / be impressed by feats of strength/athletic grace/etc when it’s more or less a commodity, and anyone – through genetic engineering, procedures like the ones you mentioned – can have it for a price. I really don’t know if in 100 years we’ll care any more.

  5. Dave Silverwood - Dec 31, 2009 at 3:50 PM

    Okay then its best that we all pray for the death of someone known to have used steroids, because it is wrong and if the commissioner can not do something we should, not the feds but the fans demand that baseball cleans up its act. PLEASE

  6. Jim Marhold - Dec 31, 2009 at 4:10 PM

    The main issue with steroids has never been its “enhancing” qualities. The issue has always been about its harmful effects. We don’t want our children to think that the only way they can have a professional career in any sport is to engage in dangerous, if not life threatening, behavior. If vegetables had the same effect on enhancing a players performace, Barry Bonds would have had his picture on a can of spinach.

  7. Joe Tetreault - Dec 31, 2009 at 4:17 PM

    That’s largely my point, Jim. The drugs are illegal because they are harmful. But, if properly studied, who is to say that safe, healthful steroids can’t exist? If they were as good for an individual as a five mile run and a healthful diet, why should they be illegal? The answer is they shouldn’t. The problem is that because they are a controlled substance, there is no market for research into the development of potentially safe variations.
    Whether we would watch, I think the answer is yes. The game would change to reflect the new skill set, and in stead of a particular aspect, power and/or speed, a different one, accuracy perhaps would be preferred. Technique and mechanics would be the prized commodities, not necessarily brute force.

  8. Wells - Dec 31, 2009 at 5:10 PM

    We don’t want our children to think that the only way they can have a professional career in any sport is to engage in dangerous, if not life threatening, behavior.
    I guess you don’t let your kids play football? Or, uh, play any kind of sport? They live in a bubble, your kids?

  9. Pete Toms - Dec 31, 2009 at 6:09 PM

    I used to say this around Shysterball and stopped cause I was being redundant, but I haven’t said it CTB, so….
    Practically NOBODY gives a crap about PEDs, not only in MLB but in ALL elite sports, all around the world. It has all been proven dirty…., baseball, football, hockey, track, cycling….and sports only grew in popularity (I think it may have maxed out, but due to other reasons)…it is the ultimate chattering classes subject. Folks, nobody but a very small number of us geeks knows Radomski from Ellerman from Conte from McNamee from Novitsky from Anderson….steroids, gambling scandals (NBA, soccer),….we have accepted that elite sports is dirty and crooked but we shrug it off. Such is the way of the world today.

  10. willmose - Dec 31, 2009 at 6:33 PM

    Could someone, anyone show me some proof that steriods were responsible for the increase in HRs in the late 90s? Could someone, anyone show me some proof that soaking the baseballs in water is not responsible for the decrease in HRs since 2006?

  11. Barry - Jan 1, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    What would be the point. If you don’t know anything about this subject by now, when will you. It would be easy for you to look this information up yourself. I have the feeling here that you are in disbelief and will never accept information contrary to your views. So be it.

  12. What - Jan 1, 2010 at 12:23 AM

    There used to be a very old term used to describe doctors; and that was pill pushers. Heaven forbid doctors passing out more useless pills instead of prescribing what patients really need. This prescribing of unnecessary drugs is what leads to the creation of drug resistant viruses. Those we don’t need. So it might be more helpful to discourage this future instead of embracing it.

  13. Wooden U. Lykteneau - Jan 1, 2010 at 7:44 AM

    Isn’t that called NASCAR?

  14. JACK MANHEIMER - Jan 1, 2010 at 8:57 AM

    Do you think Gary Player was right when he said that many golfers are using steroids? Tiger Woods looks like a fit don’t you think?!
    Baseball, Track, Football and Golf appear to be the deeply involved, but not soccer, car racing or hockey…what do you think?

  15. Old Gator - Jan 1, 2010 at 1:25 PM

    As a rule, technology overruns any society’s intention to “think about it” and becomes a social and ethical issue long after there’s no hope of controlling it. Americans were embroiled in a faux debate over stem cells while research and development, already well along, just went chugging on past us. Nobody planned the internet; it practically assembled itself and then waited for us to step backwards socially and organized its periphery, but it is still wildly beyond our control and far too much of a sprawl for us to protect. Even CTB is just giving a name or acrostic and a dedicated portal to something that was already out there before some unknown marketing genius decided to brand it with MSNBC’s cachet. Rarely has civilization dodged the bullet to its own temporary advantage – as, say, when Charles Babbage couldn’t raise to money to build his mechanical computer, the so-called “difference engine,” early in the 19th century (whereas the working models finally constructed from his blueprints by the British Museum of Science and Technology prove it not only worked, but would have fast-forwarded the entire industrial revolution a hundred years within a decade if built and put to work when Babbage invented it – with a colossal dislocation of the European workforce in the process that probably would have led to social upheavals that made Napoleon look like Hugo Chavez).
    About the only people who “think about it” long enough in advance to give us an opportunity to anticipate and control technology from the git-go are science fiction writers, and we don’t listen to them because…well, because they’re science fiction writers as opposed to, say, sportswriters (heh, heh). Example, and drawing upon my averral to the Babbage Engine above, see William Gibson and Bruce Sterling’s The Difference Engine, and while you’re at it, if you want to see where cyberspace (not to mention the culture around it) is headed, pick up Gibson’s Neuromancer trilogy.

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  22. Kraig Wayne - Jan 20, 2010 at 3:23 AM

    Can I order a supply one or two months in advance?

  23. Kristian Mattias - Jan 27, 2010 at 12:24 AM

    Thanks for writing about this. There’s a bunch of important tech information on the internet. You’ve got a lot of that info here on your site. I’m impressed – I try to keep a couple blogs pretty up-to-date, but it’s a struggle sometimes. You’ve done a solid job with this one. How do you do it?

  24. Jaylin Imram - Jan 27, 2010 at 12:24 AM

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