May 15, 2014, 11:52 AM EDT
After the Mitchell Report came out, I argued that maybe baseball would have been better served if it had used such opportunities and efforts to learn about players’ doping habits, suppliers and incentives rather than merely produce a list of players for the media to tear apart and which the league itself could hold up to show just how much it was doing.
Back when the Biogenesis stuff hit I similarly argued that baseball would maybe be better served to talk to the players involved and cut deals in exchange for information about what could be a big drug pipeline into the sport. To stop treating the users as 100% of the problem and actually look to the dealers and others as a means of actually stopping the drug problem rather than merely (ineffectually) policing it.
Most people call me a crazy, druggie-loving apologist when I say stuff like that.
Know who else is saying stuff like that? People on the vanguard of anti-doping efforts. From Pacific Standard:
Anti-doping officials have learned that drug testing cannot catch the most sophisticated cheaters. Marion Jones passed over 160 drug tests; Lance Armstrong passed even more. Incentivizing athletes to become informants, as Gay did, has become a critical component of enforcement. According to people familiar with the Gay investigation, the sprinter told investigators that his former coach Jon Drummond, a gold medalist and chair of USA Track and Field’s Athletes Advisory Committee, encouraged his use of the banned products and transported them for him. They said that Gay also gave information about the chiropractor, as well as NFL players and other track athletes he believes were using the same or similar products.
Gay’s seemingly light punishment, anti-doping officials say, will ultimately serve the greater good, because intelligence gathering accomplishes what drug-testing never will.
If you want to solve a problem, go to its root. If that means losing out on the opportunity to put a big famous person on public trial to make an example out of him, well, maybe that’s a price worth paying.
Of course, I don’t think baseball, its players or its fans will accept that. We get too much joy out of looking tough and there is too little reward, apparently, for actually being effective.
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