Steroids in baseball

I haven’t paid very close attention to the recent steroid controversy in professional baseball, but I find the general philosophical issues somewhat interesting.

I wasn’t at all surprised or disillusioned to learn that some of the players use steroids. It’s a competitive business, and millions of dollars are at stake. Under that kind of pressure, players will do whatever they can to gain an advantage.

I don’t have strong feelings about steroid use in professional sports. Both the benefits and the dangers are well known, and my libertarian streak says that it’s up to a player to balance the risks and rewards regarding his health and livelihood and make his own decision.

Many sports demand that we purchase success or enjoyment with portion of our physical health. Ever see a ballet dancer’s feet? A mountain climber’s hands? Look at the damage gymnasts do to their bodies.

And it’s not limited to sports. Ever see a coal miner’s lungs? (Or a cigarette smoker’s for that matter.) I personally have several musician friends who have traded a fair amount of their hearing for their life’s passion. Life is about trade-offs, and we each have to decide what is important and what we are willing to exchange for it.

That said, baseball players belong to a league. That league should have the right to set it’s own rules and to act in it’s own best interest. My guess is that it’s in the league’s best interest to be steroid free. Despite the reality, baseball fans cling to the image of pure competition, family fun, and fair play. Steroids taint all that. And of course if some players use steroids, others will have to start (whether they want to or not) if they wish to stay competitive. This trickles down into college and high school sports and before you know it, we’ve fouled up the whole wretched mess.

So you’d think the owners would strongly police the use of steroids and other drugs, but in fact they don’t. From what I understand, in their last contract, Major League Baseball agreed to drug test each player only once a year, and at a time of the player’s choosing. This is tantamount to not testing at all, of course.

Apparently the owners have decided that drug use isn’t a big deal. Or perhaps they believe that that a few more homeruns will fill the seats better than a proud tradition. The idealist in me hopes they are wrong. The libertarian in me grants that it is their decision to make.

Which brings me to my final point. I saw John McCain on television a couple of nights ago declaring that if Major League Baseball doesn’t fix this problem, Congress will. I suppose he’s going to “fix” baseball just like he “fixed” freedom of speech under campaign finance reform. How did this man get it into his head that government is the answer to everything? Why doesn’t he just declare himself a Democrat and start championing national health care as well?

McCain needs to go back and read his Constitution. The government has no business dictating how a non-government sports league should operate. Even if the league is doing something illegal, it’s the job of the President, not the Congress, to enforce the laws.

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