Friday, August 24, 2012

In Defense of a Dope

Lance: This post should not be taken to mean that I like you.

Good morning, everyone! Your friendliest of all deranged political nuts is back from hiatus. As with many good things, work intruded.

Anyway, I noticed in the news that Lance Armstrong has decided to cease his opposition to the USADA's investigation of doping during his 7 Tour de France wins, and that his decision will likely cost him his medals. Regardless of the veracity of the charges, this investigation breaches onto a larger issue at work in sports today.

Bartolo Colon and Melky Cabrera were both recently given 50 game bans by Major League Baseball due to violations of the league's performance-enhancing drug policy. Sports as disparate as baseball, American football and professional wrestling (if you can permit me to call it a sport) have all endured scandals over the years due to performance-enhancing drugs.

My take on PEDs is, I believe, a bit different from the mainstream.  Quite simply, who cares?

PEDs should not be banned or punishable at all. They should not be subject to criminal charges. They should not be subject to Congressional hearings. And, they should not keep athletes out of their respective Halls of Fame.  Here are the two reasons why:

1) Athletic achievement is athletic achievement. Athletes excel not only because of their genetics, but also because of the efficacy of their training regimens. It is unclear to me what makes taking a drug any different from doing a certain kind of exercise more than your competition, or more importantly, simply eating right and taking your vitamins. I'm not saying that they are the same things...but I am saying that it's all a matter of degrees.  

2) The deleterious effects of PEDs on the human body are well-documented. Scores of athletes have died early of heart attacks or other ailments usually reserved for older people. As I have mentioned about those who choose to take narcotics, if these people want to take the risk and shorten their lifespans for some kind of glory, then that is their business. If this means that we have an entire generation of athletes who are juicing or that it becomes the norm, so be that, too. I'm okay with being the old guy in the bar talking about how it was purer in my day.

To be clear, I think PEDs are terrible and I think no one should ever use them. But, part of being competitive is always seeking the edge on one's competition. If these people want to endanger themselves and risk breaking down like a racehorse, then that's their business. Maybe there will be records set while people are using drugs. There's no reason to suspect records in place already haven't been.  It's still impressive, regardless of the path taken to get there.  No amount of steroids would ever make most people world-class athletes...myself included.