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Why is some performance enhancement OK but not others?

Feb 4, 2013, 7:19 AM EDT

Kirk Gibson Dodgers home run

Dan LeBatard offers the most intelligent and mature take on PEDs in sports I’ve seen in ages. He asks us to take a step back and ask ourselves why it is we are so hung up on a certain, narrow kind of performance enhancement in sports when we never question it — indeed, we openly praise it — when athletes do insane things to their bodies, all in the name of staying on the field? Often things that could cause massive harm.

Stuff like Ronnie Lott cutting his finger off. Lomas Brown playing with a catheter. Players having ligaments taken from cadavers and inserted into their own bodies. Drug therapies and medical procedures that are wholly unnecessary for a normal quality of life but are accepted in the name of athletic performance. We are totally fine with these. We are not totally fine with others:

We are OK with Kirk Gibson hitting one of the most famous home runs ever on one steroid (cortisone), but we slam the Hall of Fame door on the face of everybody else who might have used the anabolic kind. Granted, cortisone is not a banned performance enhancer, but it certainly enhanced Gibson’s performance, which wouldn’t have been possible without it. Lost in the shouting of “Cheater!” and “Fraud!” from a pill-popping America is how often athletes have to go through the pharmacy for the healing properties of hormones — not just to hit home runs but because what they do for a daily living really hurts.

It is not enough to draw some line and say “well, [drug/procedure X] is banned and [drug/procedure Y] is not banned.” It makes people who like to pour crap on banned PED users feel better, but it’s a most pedantic distinction. Why are some procedures and drugs banned and others not? Why do we allow some sorts of performance enhancement or enabling but not others? If it’s OK for Kirk Gibson to take a drug that allowed him to take the field when he otherwise could not have, why do we not allow other players to take other drugs that allow them to take the field when they otherwise can’t?

More broadly, as fans and observers, why do we seem to care so much and get so annoyed at certain sorts of seemingly unnatural acts undertaken by athletes but don’t care a bit — or, alternatively, fully expect — so many others?

  1. The Common Man - Feb 4, 2013 at 7:36 AM

    Agreed. And even more broadly, why have hitters been allowed to don massive elbow pads at the plate, allowing them to crowd it and the pitcher. Isn’t Lasik surgery an artificial performance enhancement? And, while they’re completely bullshit, aren’t those Phiten necklaces at least intended to be a performance enhancer? As long as it comes from a licensed doctor’s prescription, or is a legal over-the-counter supplement, I’m pretty ok with it.

    • historiophiliac - Feb 4, 2013 at 7:51 AM

      You forgot eye black and Gatorade.

      • cur68 - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:10 PM

        I think there’s some evidence that Gatorade actually works. The eye black? Dunno. Sure makes you LOOK like you’re trying, especially when you smear it all over your face, so maybe its a psychological enhancement. Like Phiten necklaces or rabbit’s feet. In the case of perfectly healthy people taking HGH I think that falls right in there with the rabbit’s feet/eye black/Phiten necklace, but I’m prepared to wait for more and better focused research to be published for review before I buy into either stance. I might get some eye black & a Phiten necklace for my thesis defence: I’ll need all the help I can get.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:56 PM

        Defending can be rough. You might oughta get some Icy-Hot. Wear a cup, and for God’s sake, don’t cry.

      • cur68 - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:38 PM

        I shall blubber like a wee baby. Its my only chance.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:43 PM

        Don’t make me ashamed, man!

      • cur68 - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        Look, I plan to wear a shirt, ok? Not only a shirt, but one with arms and a collar, too. Don’t be getting all ‘motional here, ok. Bad enough that I’m sweating bullets over flip-flops or sandals, I don’t need any more pressure.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:57 PM

        Do a little Valverde dance & spit three times before you go in…and make the sign of the knuckler.

      • cur68 - Feb 4, 2013 at 2:04 PM

        Ok, I better make a list. This stuff sounds like some good juju.

        1) Cup
        2) Icy Hot (apply where on person? If you say “cup” I shall suspect you aren’t helping)
        3) Eye Black
        4) Phiten Necklace
        5) Beta Blockers to keep the tears under control (I have no idea if this works, by the way, but I BELIEVE in PEDS)
        6) Shirt
        7) Valverde Dance
        8) Spit 3 times (might be tough after Beta Blockers)
        9) Get into catcher’s crouch, drop throwing hand into groin, fan fingers, and waggle them

        That it? I’m going to have enough trouble recalling all the statistical work so that list better not get any longer.

      • historiophiliac - Feb 4, 2013 at 2:10 PM

        Dude, it has to flow. Like this: forgedaboudit.

      • cur68 - Feb 4, 2013 at 2:28 PM

        “Flow”? I gots to flow, too? Like with grace? And Rhythm? And stuff? Shit. I’m doomed. I got no grace. No athletic ability at all, in fact. I’m been getting by on brains, determination, and grit. Dang paradigm change! I knew it would bite me onna ass…

    • alang3131982 - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      I’m in the camp of saying all PEDs are fine with me, who cares. But isnt the distinction that in one sense these players took cortisone or had TJ surgery because they were injured, while, in the other sense, these are perfectly (or at least reasonably) healthy players that dont need the drugs/procedures to play. They could play without them. Gibson couldnt round the bases or walk without the cortisone.

      Again, i think if you want to hate on PEDs, you have to consider why you’re ok with some or the other, but i think the above gets to the comfortable dissonance folks can take between HGH and TJ.

      • Jeremy T - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:21 PM

        But what about all the players who took steroids to help them come back from an injury? Isn’t that basically the same thing?

      • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:34 PM

        It is essentially the same thing. If cortisone was just discovered in the mid-90s, it would probably be on the banned list because players would have been taking it before it was approved for such usage. The only reason I can see for the dramatic difference in attitudes between corticosteroids and many of the other PEDs is that one was available and came into use earlier, resulting in its acceptance.

    • Jason @ IIATMS - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      I also demand a Congressional hearing on the overuse of Phiten necklaces and whatnot. That sh!t’s pure science-ish*.

      * might be <5% science, by volume. some restrictions apply

  2. philliesblow - Feb 4, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    And Viagra

  3. natslady - Feb 4, 2013 at 7:53 AM

    We discussed this endlessly re: Ryan Zimmerman and his cortisone shot(s). The bottom line is the rules seem (and probably are) arbitrary. But they are the rules, and players who knowingly break them to gain an advantage over players who don’t break them are “cheating.” That’s what makes it a game. That’s why the DEA probably doesn’t care, because it doesn’t exist to enforce MLB’s rules.

    My feeling is this that though an any particular drug on the banned list may be ineffective or harmless, the goal is a good one. If not held in check, these young men would do vast damage to their bodies and their futures–and fans, owners, and bettors would eagerly watch them do it (hello, NFL).

    So, why have rules against PEDs, amphetamines, and prescription drugs without a prescription?

    (1) Player safety
    (2) “Level” field — athletic talent, hard work, good coaching, baseball “IQ” — these are what we want to see in winners, not who has access to the best drugs. It’s an ideal, not a reality, but “ideals” are entertaining, reality pretty much isn’t.

    • pdowdy83 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      I don’t think your player safety point works for this argument, especially when using Ryan Zimmerman as an example. Zimmerman could have done very severe damage to his injured shoulder by using MULTIPLE cortisone shots to mask the problem and allow him to play through it.

  4. deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 7:58 AM

    Because some help you recover from injuries or get up for the second game of a double header and some turn you into solid masses of muscle that allow doubles hitters to hit 40 home runs and 40 home run hitters to hit 72 in their late 30s.

    There that wasn’t so hard.

    • cktai - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:14 AM

      What about the players who use steroids and HGH for injury recovery?

      Also what about amphetamines that make you more concentrated and help you hit the ball more squarely, making you hit 40 HR in your late 30s, or cause a 20 HR hitter to suddenly surge to 61 HR?

      • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:37 AM

        Are you suggesting aphmetamines can turn a 20 home run hitter into a 61 home run hitter? Because I’m pretty sure that had everything to do with Maris’ spray chart and the fact that it was 314 down the right field line. Given he hit 39 home runs the year before and also won the MVP.

        As for steroids and HGH for recovering from injury in an ideal world I would say anything that’s not illegal in the country would be ok to use for injury, but there’s no way to enforce that. Any player who wnats steroids can write a check to a doctor and get a prescription and say “It’s for bone spurs” or “From ligament damage in X game.” so the reality is it all has to be banned.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:40 AM

        Isn’t it possible that steroids don’t have the effect you think they do? I mean, you try to justify Maris going from 39 to 61 in one year saying it was all the right field wall and then say that Bonds going from 49 to 73 was entirely due to steroids?

        A lot of math and science has already been done regarding the effects of steroids on baseball players, and they come to entirely different conclusions than you do.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:48 AM

        He hit 39 the year before because he was also on steroids then…let’s not be ridiculous and not pretend like we don’t know when he started using. In Game of Shadows there’s quite a bit of evidence that points to 1998 as the start date. Now you want to say his prior high was 46? That’s fair. He was also 28 then not 36.

        Anyone suggesting that steroids didn’t help players in the 90s-200s become legendary home run hitters well into their late 30’s are being obstinate. Sammy Sosa broke Maris’ record 3 times and never lead the league in home runs any of those years. Pointing to things like an expanded strike zone are a red herring. Sorry if the players don’t like it, but this is a sins of the father situation. The players of that era allowed their union to fight against drug testing and then say no one can question what happened on the field. You don’t get it both ways.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:06 AM

        Anyone suggesting that steroids didn’t help players in the 90s-200s become legendary home run hitters well into their late 30′s are being obstinate

        You do realize that for every Sosa/McGwire/Bonds, we can list just as many players who took steroids that didn’t have absurd HR totals right? That there were a significant number of pitchers who also took steroids?

        In Game of Shadows there’s quite a bit of evidence that points to 1998 as the start date.

        No, there’s not. In fact, Game of Shadows says:
        The book is among the most damaging accounts of reported steroid use by Bonds. According to the authors, Bonds began using stanozolol, the same drug for which Ben Johnson tested positive after winning the 100 meters at the 1988 Summer Olympics, starting in the 1999 season

        The whole background for Bonds’s steroid use is he was pissed at the national attention paid to McGwire and Sosa during their epic HR chase in ’98. It’s not possible for that narrative to be true if he was already taking it.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:29 PM

        “You do realize that for every Sosa/McGwire/Bonds, we can list just as many players who took steroids that didn’t have absurd HR totals right? That there were a significant number of pitchers who also took steroids?”

        Well not everyone who took them was already one of the 20 greatest players of all time in the case of Bonds. The pitchers argument doesn’t hold water because even if we assume there was one pitcher on steroids for everyone one hitter the overall offensive numbers for the era were astronomical.

        “The whole background for Bonds’s steroid use is he was pissed at the national attention paid to McGwire and Sosa during their epic HR chase in ’98. It’s not possible for that narrative to be true if he was already taking it.

        You’re right I meant that he started taking them after the 98 season. I had assumed that meant he started in the months following the end of the season which would still have been 98, but in either case the point is the same.

    • ezthinking - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Do you realize that out of the 1,000 or so swings a player takes at a pitched ball during the season, that by only getting lucky an extra 2.4% of the time and square up a pitch you can go from 49 to 73 HR? 1/8 of an inch is the difference between a pop up and a HR.

      • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:17 PM

        I guess all the luck in the world happened between 1998 and 2001 then.

  5. brewcrewfan54 - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:11 AM

    I find it funny how when a baseball player gets caught using steroids its a huge deal to everyone but when an NFL player get caught everyone just says, ok see you in 4 weeks ready to play. I tell you what, if someone was handing out pills to make me better at my job I’d take the damn things too.

    • deadeyedesign23 - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:41 AM

      It’s because the numbers matter in baseball and they don’t in football. It’s also why people are more mad at Bonds, McGwire and Clemens than they are at people like Marlon Byrd or Bartolo Colon.

      In baseball we all knew what the numbers 60, 61, 714, 755 meant. I’m a football fan…can anyone here without looking tell me what Emmit’s record for career rushing yards is? How about what Calvin Johnson’s record fo receiving yards…he just broke it this year so we should probably know it, but we don;t because stats dont matter in football.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:20 AM

        Records matter in football but the numbers are just a lot larger in many cases so they aren’t as easy to remember. Not to mention that records in football actually get broken every few years. When 755, 714, 60, and 61 have been drilled imto your head for 50 years you tend to remember them. I’m a baseball fan but I’ve always found it funny how baseball people always seem to want the guys from 50+ years ago to be considered the best and hold all the records.

    • albertmn - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      And, brewcrew is exactly why they need to be banned. Without even asking side effects, brew would take the drugs to be better at his job. So what if it might mean health or mental problems later, it might get me a raise this year. Of course there probably are substances that would make you better at your job, at least in the short term before they wreck your life, but they are illegal.

      Count me as someone that would not take a drug just to make me better at my job. I am already very good at my job.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        I should have been more specific, as long as it wouldn’t ruin my health I’d take it.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

        So what if it might mean health or mental problems later, it might get me a raise this year

        But if the justification for banning them is future medical issues, couldn’t we use that as a reason to outlaw smoking, drinking, eating bad food, refusing to exercise, etc?

  6. Chris Fiorentino - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    From reading Doug Glanville in the past, I thought the idea was that the banned substances have the potential to do more harm to your body than the ones that are not banned. So it is unfair for some to not give a shit about their bodies and put their performance(re: big bucks) above their future health while those who care about their future health do not take the banned substances and do not get the enhanced play.

    • heyblueyoustink - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:23 AM

      The last name I expect to see in an article about performance enhancers first thing Monday morning? Beanpole Doug Glanville.

    • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:41 PM

      Anabolic steroids actually don’t have many or common long-term negative effects unless they are horribly abused. Just as with all drugs, they can have horrible short- and long-term effects when used irresponsibly, but one can use anabolic steroids responsibly to great benefit with zero long-term negative effect. It is for this reason that the AMA was 100% against the 1991 legislation regarding steroids. That legislation was 100% politically driven, not medially driven.

  7. chacochicken - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:32 AM

    The majority of long term studies show a mild increase in athletic performance from some peds. You are probably better off with a hearty meal, good nights sleep, and a cup of coffee. Bonds didn’t really enhance his performance he changed his production. The guy was 40/40 in 1996 and hit 40 in ’97 long before he looked like the linebacker he was in 2001. The guy was already a .300+ hitter who led the league in walks three straight seasons. The funny things is if he hit 60 homeruns instead of 73 he’d be in the Hall right now.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:42 AM

      The funny things is if he hit 60 homeruns instead of 73 he’d be in the Hall right now.

      Interesting way to look at it. What if he pulled a Sosa and had multiple 60 HR seasons instead of the 49 then 72 then never hitting 50 again? Would we be as outraged? What if it was just a long string of 50 HR seasons?

  8. Old Gator - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    When Dan LeBatard, whose broadcasts usually display an IQ of about 75 and a mien maturity level of about twelve years old, offers up one of the more logical disquisitions on a topic, that topic is in serious trouble.

    • heyblueyoustink - Feb 4, 2013 at 8:55 AM

      Eh, cut the fat kid a break. He’s just one of those sports writers who should be read, and not heard, is all.

      • brewcrewfan54 - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:23 AM

        Yeah that show of his is just terrible.

      • Old Gator - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:06 AM

        Not only is it terrible, but it is the Chihuahua’s primary venue for coming on and spinning the latest Scrooge McLoria spasm of penury – he knows our Jimmy the Feesh Fan is out there somewhere and primed to fall for it – not to mention displaying his utter lack of taste, knowledge and limping what-passes-for-analysis of old movies in Macondo.

        Jimmy! Smack! Wake up! They’re just playing you.

  9. 1509lucky - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    The entire PED thing is so Bogus,especially when you only shine the light on those who use hem and are successful. How about putting the spotlight on the PED users who still manage to Suck? I am willing to wager that the majority of guys who are using PED’s are not impact players putting up monster numbers. When you continue to focus on the guys who use,who have success using,you only make more guys want to use.

    • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:46 PM

      You don’t even have to make a hypothetical bet on this point. The facts in evidence demonstrate its truth. Most players that take PEDs are not stars, do not see effects on their performance, and are ignored because they are not stars…..all the while the media and fans act like any star that is caught only put up this numbers because of PED use. It is the worst form of confirmation bias.

  10. chaseutley - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    Kirk Gibson isn’t in the Hall of Fame.

    • Old Gator - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:07 AM

      But he lives forever in the hearts of Dodgers fans. To hell with the Hall of Fame.

  11. jarathen - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    I’m always more impressed with how baseball cares so much about PEDs, and fans and writers care, but no one seems to care about other sports, which either don’t test nearly as comprehensively, never seem to catch anyone, or both.

    • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

      Football caught more players in 2012 than baseball in terms of raw numbers and % of players. Their testing system is equivalent to that in MLB (assuming they also start wasting time testing for HGH, a test that doesn’t work for a drug that doesn’t enhance performance).

  12. sdelmonte - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    When I started to rethink my opposition to steroids, LeBatard was one of the first sportswriters I found that went against the grain. He has consistently questioned the prevailing attitude, even if sometimes he’s been a apologist for Bonds.

    • Old Gator - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      He goes against a lot of grains. Did I ever tell you about the time he got busted at the Johnny Rocket’s in Coconut Grove and spent a night in jail for being drunk and disorderly and mouthing off to a Macondo cop?

      Of course, we haven’t yet figured out how he got ploughed on a milkshake, but the next day he wrote a long article essentially blaming the cop for somehow singling him out of the crowd and picking on him for no good reason. In a way, it’s too bad that happened before he became a spawrts torque raydeeo host. The next day’s show would have been a classic to rival Plan Nine from Outer Space and Benigni’s Pinocchio.

  13. buffalomafia - Feb 4, 2013 at 9:32 AM

    I personaly heard from a personal trainer that if prescribed by a Dr. taking steroids is legal.

    • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      Only if prescribed for an approved usage.

  14. kirkvanhouten - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    Today’s steroids aren’t the steroids of 10 or 20 years ago. As people have been working on this shit as though it were the cure for cancer, we are seeing more benefits and fewer side effects of modern steroids as well as much greater knowledge of dosing and what it can do.

    Bill James flat out hypothesized in a Q&A on his website that in 50 years, we’d all be on steroids. I mean, it increases strength, slows down the aging process. If we can get those with very minimal side effects as we one day very well might, why wouldn’t we treat them any other new medical advancement?

    May it be possible that we may one day get to the point where MLB itself is the villain by prohibiting the use of a valuable medical advancement?

    • js20011041 - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      Well, you already see many men that are prescribed testosterone. The key difference however, is that these are men with testosterone deficiencies. I’m not sure that just putting everyone on steroids, even those with normal testosterone levels wouldn’t be harmful long term. I don’t see this issue as being an inherently moral one, but I do think that substances like anabolic steroids and HGH should be banned and tested for. I don’t want to see the game evolve back into a state where the athletes need to take those substances just to compete, like you see in track and field and cycling.

      • kirkvanhouten - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:59 AM

        I’m speaking more in the abstract in regards to future advances. IE, the known benefits of steroids, which can greatly slow down the aging process and better physical health, combined with the virtual elimination of side effects. Which I think is probable result with advances in medical research.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        HGH should be banned and tested for.

        HGH has been shown to provide zero benefit to the average, normal individual. Why should it be banned?

      • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:05 PM

        Actually, those guys don’t have testosterone deficiencies for their age. It is called senescence (i.e. growing old), at some point every guys body starts producing less testosterone because you don’t need it anymore. Prescribing it to combat the natural aging process is not the same as prescribing it for men with low testosterone for their age.

  15. Roger Moore - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    The difference is really between performance enhancement- making yourself better than your natural ability and training would let you- and performance recovery- getting yourself back to your natural ability level faster than you otherwise could. We accept performance recovery because we feel that it’s just a matter of letting players get back onto the field sooner, letting the best guys in the game show their stuff, which makes the game better without really distorting it. We dislike performance enhancement, though, because we see it as people pushing past their natural limits, which does distort the game.

    I think this is the big reason that people are so much more relaxed about amphetamines than they are about steroids. Right or wrong, they see amphetamines primarily as a performance recovery drug, which lets guys play at something like their normal ability even when they’re tired or hung over. In contrast, people are relatively unsympathetic to players who use steroids or HGH to try to come back from injuries faster because they know those drugs are also potentially performance enhancing and they’re worried about blurring the line between the two categories.

    • Francisco (FC) - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:03 AM

      That doesn’t make sense. If your natural ability doesn’t allow you to recover quickly and you have to stay out of the game longer, then taking a drug that speeds up the recovery and gets you in the field is a performance enhancer because without it said player would play less games, hit less HRs, etc.

      Enhancement is enhancement. There is no distinction. Anyone thinking we have two separate categories should buy that bridge in Brooklyn I’m selling.

      • Roger Moore - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        I’m not trying to argue that the distinction is completely logical. I’d actually suggest that it’s mostly emotional. Some people look at them and immediately see them as cheating that deserves the strongest possible punishment, and some people see them as just one more thing players do to try to get an edge and no more noteworthy than lifting weights or taking extra batting practice.

        I think that’s why discussions of PEDs tend to produce so much heat and so little light. People are trying to come up for logical arguments for what are basically emotional positions. That’s futile effort, since you can’t reason somebody out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

  16. Ben - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    My feeling about the steroid era are mostly focused around the players who didn’t take steroids. I think that if we’re going to try to draw some sort of line (which is probably a fool’s errand) that the dividing line should be based on the harm that a performance enhancer does to its user. I think steroids should be banned not because performance enhancement itself is bad, but because a reasonable person can look at the disturbing effects of steroids on their testicles, their hairline, etc. and say that’s a bridge they are not willing to cross. But that also might mean that that guy who refuses to use don’t have a major-league career as a result, and that’s not fair. I don’t think steroids made any already great player great, but I do think they offered a chance for the mediocre or sub-replacement to be slightly better–If the guy juicing moves up in the depth charts above a guy who refuses to use, then that for me is the dividing line, and the harm.
    I’m not even sure that dividing line I’ve offered is so clear, given that you rightly point out that baseball itself is a destructive thing to your body, but it’s a shot anyway.

    • dowhatifeellike - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:42 AM

      Jay Gibbons is a prime example here – he ‘roided up and had a couple decent seasons with the Orioles, but once he got caught he tried to catch on with the Dodgers and couldn’t perform.

      • paperlions - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:09 PM

        Jay Gibbons isn’t a prime example. Gibbons never had a particularly good season, and his best season was AFTER steroid testing began. What Jay Gibbons is a good example of is a marginal player who was only good enough to play in the majors during his physical peak 25-30 yrs old.

  17. nobody78 - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:34 AM

    The difference between those substances which are banned and those which aren’t isn’t “most pedantic.” It doesn’t end discussion, I agree, but it’s the obvious place to start thinking about the very complicated problem of how we should view steroid use.

  18. nategearhart - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:35 AM

    And when someone’s answer is: “the bad ones make you stronger/better and the ok ones just help you heal faster”, the question becomes, “then why is everyone so pissed at A-Rod?”

  19. zalayetta - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    PED-s are not only about being bigger, stronger and faster. In a season where you play 162 games and train probably twice as much recovery might be the deciding factor. Ask yourself, if it’s true that taking PED-s only marginally enhances your ability why are cyclist paying between 40 000 and 50 000 dollars a year just to get a program of how to dope? And there are no big money in cycling. Furthermore the argument about ‘level playing field’ is uneducated at best, not all people respond the same way to drugs. While some will get only slight increase in their performance other will have up to 20% gain. And yes, cortisone is also PED as is laser eye surgery.
    Be that as it may, athletes carry the least amount of responsibility considering everyday pressure to deliver the goods or be substituted. On the bright side, MLB is still way better than the NFL.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 10:47 AM

      Ask yourself, if it’s true that taking PED-s only marginally enhances your ability why are cyclist paying between 40 000 and 50 000 dollars a year just to get a program of how to dope

      Players will do and/or use anything that they think marginally increases their performance, even if the product has been proven to do nothing of the sort (cf. phiten necklaces, those athletic sleeves, use HGH, etc).

      Also, someone correct me here, but most “PED use” in cycling relates to blood doping which can have a significant boost to performance. Steroids, which increase testosterone, wouldn’t be a great effect to an endurance event.

      • zalayetta - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:08 AM

        Actually, testosterone is used by cyclist to speed up recovery during Grand Tours. And like any other doping not every cyclist reacts the same to blood doping. It is said that Armstrong was exceptional responder.
        You have to get the perfect mix of PED-s and methods of using them to be able to perform during a whole year. That is where good doping doctor comes in.
        Wouldn’t be surprised if blood doping is very much present in baseball. First of all they don’t test for EPO and second, there is no harm in having your blood be able to transfer vast amounts of oxygen. Less fatigue, better production.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:07 PM

        Thanks, I figured it wasn’t used for it’s boosting performance, but the recovery use makes a ton of sense.

  20. nukeladouche - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    As a society in general we have a bit of an arbitrary attitude towards medicines/drugs/intoxicants in general.

    Alcohol causes a ton of problems, yet it’s legal for anyone over age 21.

    Kids who seem to have trouble focusing in school get prescribed all sorts of drugs (adderall, etc.) to help them behave and get better grades. Is that the sports equivalent of a cortisone shot? Or anabolic steroids?

    Stressed-out moms and dads can easily get prescriptions for potentially habit-forming anti-anxiety prescriptions, sleeping pills, etc.

    Tell your doctor your back hurts and chances are you’ll get a prescription for potentially addictive painkillers.

    But in most states, God forbid someone lights up a joint. When it comes to drugs/medicine and drug policy, whether it’s in society at large or in sports, rational distinctions aren’t always easy to come by.

  21. dowhatifeellike - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:28 AM

    Assemble a board of distinguished bioethicists and let them decide what is OK and what is not. Problem solved.

  22. genericcommenter - Feb 4, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Most people seem to defer to authority, even (especially?) when authorities show little understanding of the issue. This is why people trust ignorant politicians over scientists and investigative journalists, and say stupid things like “It’s bad because it’s the law.”

    People for the most part are incapable of or unwilling to think critically. Those who do are treated like weirdos.

    • manchestermiracle - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      Ya weirdo.

  23. kiwicricket - Feb 4, 2013 at 12:48 PM

    Without wading into several of the other fringe arguments which seem to be entering the equation, I can honestly say that as an obsessive weightlifter during my late teens / 20’s, I have taken most over the counter ‘supplements’ available (including lighter doses of andro).

    There is a disturbingly large difference between these supplements and steroids.

    Had friends take them, trained with guys who just started taking them and seen the effects. Not many things on earth can make you lift twice your natural amount in only several months, but make your body shrivel up like a roast chicken left in the oven for 6hrs when stopped.

    The ‘eye test’ is actually pretty revealing when applied to weightlifting and spending 5 days a week in a gym. Some guys strength and muscularity are physically impossible when considering their training habits/diet, without the aid of steroids.

    *Just my observations after lifting obsessively for a decade, not touching on any argument in particular other than anabolic steroids can transform your body into something its not physically capable of becoming naturally.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 4, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      The ‘eye test’ is actually pretty revealing when applied to weightlifting and spending 5 days a week in a gym. Some guys strength and muscularity are physically impossible when considering their training habits/diet, without the aid of steroids.

      This is true, but the phrase we should key in on is “Some guys”. You can take two people, brothers even, we’ll call them Jeremy and Jason, could take PEDs/’roids and the benefits can wildly vary.

  24. 49ersgiants4life - Feb 4, 2013 at 2:27 PM

    I could take all of the HGH and steroids I want but that isn’t going to make me win 7 Cy’s or 8 MVP’s the guy with one of the first comments said certain ones were okay cause it can help a player recover from an injury faster or allow them to play a double header but that’s the same thing as prolonging your career using them it is just for a longer time period

  25. bh192012 - Feb 4, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    “It is not enough to draw some line ” Really, the sport literally has lines in it. I suppose speed limit signs should just say “fast” or “slow?” Foul balls are the result of someone being pedantic.

    The players should not be above regular humans, (otherwise we’d watch robot baseball.) When everyone can easily go to their doctor (not a quack job) and get a perscription for PED’s so they can be ripped, is when PED’s will become less stigmatized. I’m not talking for medical reasons, I mean we can walk in there and say “I wanna be ripped, what can you do for me?” I can get a cortizone shot perscribed by a doctor just like a baseball player. This is why there are parts of the rules about regular perscriptions by doctors. Basically what’s ok for players is ok for regular people.

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