I was hoping that I would never write about Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) again. I really was. But every time it hits the headlines, and the media subsequently pushes the buttons of the fans until they’re foaming at the collective mouth, I can’t help but get fired up. I think I’ve figured out how to best explain why taking PEDs isn’t actually cheating. Now, I understand that it’s technically cheating, because it’s against the rules.
You know what else is cheating in baseball? Anytime a batter kicks away the chalk outline of the batter’s box, so he can stand further back. Watch a game, and you’ll notice that chalk outline is gone by the end of the first inning. Yet no one is accused of cheating, and there’s no talk of lifetime bans or suspensions. It is still cheating.
This is how I see it is: Cheating happens on the field. While PEDs are part of preparation. There haven’t been any links made between taking HGH, or any other substance, to better hand-eye coordination, athletic ability or any specific skill. Using sandpaper to doctor a baseball directly affects how that ball rotates. HGH increases bone density; muscle mass, decreases body fat and increases exercise capacity. But the player still has to work out, HGH just maximizes those workouts. There are numerous supplements that baseball hasn’t banned, that have many of the same benefits, but perhaps aren’t as effective.
Taking PEDs is like a high school kid, who hasn’t been diagnosed with ADD, who takes Adderall, so they can stay up late and study more. Yes, I’m totally thinking of Jessie in “Saved by the Bell” taking caffeine pills. The result may be better grades. It’s illegal, since they don’t have a prescription, but no one would call it cheating. Now a student who gets a copy of the test beforehand, we’d all call that cheating. But we wouldn’t say it’s cheating, if a student decided to read ahead in their textbook. Wait, do they still have textbooks? But really, who called Jessie a cheater in 1990?
Now I need to understand why these stories set me off like this. A follower on twitter recently told me, “if you don’t care, then don’t care.” But I do care. I care about truth and honesty. So I despise Ryan Braun, not so much for lying, but for throwing others under the bus. But I’m also super angry that the media and fans only seem to care about PEDs in baseball. They want to take Braun’s MVP award away. But when Brian Cushing was caught using steroids in the NFL, they did strip his award. Then the writers voted again, and he won again. Two seasons later, he put up identical stats, and no one batted an eye. When Kobe Bryant went to Germany for a treatment program that isn’t legal in the United States, it drew some attention, but no one has called him a cheater. In fact, a number of players from different sports, saw that Kobe came back with more bounce in his step, so they also went to Germany to have the same treatment. These inconsistencies from those who are so adamant about keeping sports clean drive me as crazy as a politician who bends the laws they were elected to enforce.
There’s often talk about protecting the integrity of the game, and the legitimacy of the records. But there’s no talk about the legitimacy of those records. Amphetamines (greenies) weren’t tested for until 2006. The likes of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle all used amphetamines when they played. This is a drug that’s now banned by Major League Baseball, and wasn’t tested for until they started testing for steroids. Yet any records set by someone who was alleged to have taken steroids should be overlooked, in favor of records which were set by players on amphetamines? It’s all a joke, only it’s the opposite of funny.