Skip to content

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?

Latest Posts
  1. Report: Reds would trade Jay Bruce to Mets for Zack Wheeler

    Jul 30, 2015, 9:08 PM EDT

    CINCINNATI, OH - JULY 18:  Jay Bruce #32 of the Cincinnati Reds takes an at bat during the game against the Cleveland Indians at Great American Ball Park on July 18, 2015 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) Getty Images

    As the Mets try to pick up the pieces after their deal for Carlos Gomez fell apart, they reportedly have an interesting proposal to consider from the Reds.

  2. The Dodgers have already designated Michael Morse for assignment

    Jul 30, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    Michael Morse Marlins Getty Images

    Morse is owed $8 million next season, but the Dodgers covered it in order to complete Thursday’s 13-player trade with the Marlins and Braves.

  3. Astros acquire Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers from Brewers

    Jul 30, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT

    gomez Getty Images

    Carlos Gomez was nearly dealt to the Mets last night before the deal fell apart, but it didn’t take long for the Brewers to find a new suitor.

  4. Report: White Sox interested in Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton

    Jul 30, 2015, 7:10 PM EDT

    CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 21: Chicago White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn (front) and Robin Ventura #23 of the Chicago White Sox watch batting practice before the game between the Chicago White Sox and the Cleveland Indians on April 21, 2015 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) Getty Images

    It wasn’t too long ago that we were talking about the White Sox as sellers, but now they are trying to buy a big bat.

  5. Mike Trout back in Angels’ lineup Thursday

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:32 PM EDT

    ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 26:  Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rounds third base after hitting a home run in the first inning during a game against the Texas Rangers at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on July 26, 2015 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Angels slugger Mike Trout is back in tonight’s lineup against the Astros after missing two games with left wrist inflammation.

  6. Pirates bolster bullpen, pick up Joakim Soria from Tigers

    Jul 30, 2015, 6:09 PM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPWUxMWY3Njc0ZTU3N2M3NzRjMDUyODFiNWJhYWE1Mjg3 Getty Images

    After dealing ace David Price to the Blue Jays earlier today, the Tigers have traded closer Joakim Soria to the Pirates.

  7. Marlins president Mike Hill hopes Marlins fans are “educated enough” to see the team’s plan

    Jul 30, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT

    marlins logo

    Of course, experience is education too, and based on that I’m quite sure that even the most intelligent Marlins fan would be justified in being confused and thinking the organization has no clue whatsoever.

  8. Yankees acquire Dustin Ackley from Mariners

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    Dustin Ackley Getty Images

    No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 draft behind Stephen Strasburg.

  9. The Mets have had an extremely Metsy 24 hours

    Jul 30, 2015, 4:07 PM EDT

    Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 3.57.11 PM

    Defeat from the jaws of victory and then they got all wet.

  10. Daniel Nava designated for assignment by the Red Sox

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:50 PM EDT

    ALCS - Detroit Tigers v Boston Red Sox - Game One Getty Images

    Nava hit .303 in 134 games for the Red Sox in 2013, playing a key role in the team’s World Series title.

  11. Pirates DFA Vance Worley to make room for Joe Blanton

    Jul 30, 2015, 3:46 PM EDT

    Vance Worley AP

    It’s like we’re in Philly all over again.

  12. Blue Jays acquire David Price from the Tigers

    Jul 30, 2015, 12:39 PM EDT

    David Price AP

    The Blue Jays have their ace and now have their sights set on catching the Yankees.

  13. The reason for the collapse of the Brewers-Mets deal? Depends on who you ask.

    Jul 30, 2015, 11:15 AM EDT

    Carlos Gomez Carlos Gomez

    Money? Health? And what the hell is a “hip doctor” anyway?

Top 10 MLB Player Searches
  1. C. Hamels (5572)
  2. T. Tulowitzki (4199)
  3. M. Trout (4002)
  4. J. Cueto (3940)
  5. A. Rodriguez (3871)
  1. C. Gomez (3867)
  2. D. Price (3653)
  3. C. Gonzalez (3519)
  4. J. Reyes (3247)
  5. T. Clippard (3132)