Monday, August 5, 2013

Steroids in Major League Baseball - What's the Big Deal?

Another season, another controversy over performance enhancing drugs. Today Major League Baseball announced disciplinary action against a number of players that it has determined used banned performance enhancing substances, including one of its biggest stars, Alex Rodriguez.

So is the use of performance enhancing drugs really that big a deal. Yes, it is. For one thing, if the leagues says no performance enhancing drugs, that's that. It's their church. If you want their money, you play by their rules. But breaking those rules does damage not just to the integrity of the game, but to other players as well. Real financial damage.

Suppose you're a player trying to negotiate a new contract. What do you base your desired compensation on? Well, for one thing, you might look at players of similar ability and what they are being paid. Now if you have a bunch of players whose "ability" comes from a syringe, or is at least enhanced by it, they've distorted the curve. They've lowered your value by artificially inflating theirs. In fact, if you had clear evidence that the performance of one or more of these players was cited during your contract negotiations, you may well have grounds for a civil suit against that player or players.

The use of performance enhancing drugs in professional sports is akin to wearing brass knuckles under your boxing gloves. It's cheating, plain and simple. You can argue technicalities like the substance you used wasn't specifically on the list, but if you're taking something and you're not sick, you know you're cheating. You're violating the intent, if not the letter of the law. All the MVP awards, records, headlines, trophies now carry very little weight. In fact, they're especially tarnished because you may well have stolen them from someone who would have won them based on their natural ability. Yeah, it's a big deal. I hope MLB takes it further in the future and adopts a "one strike and you're out" rule.