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The question of steroids | Bottom Line Ethics
With the jury deliberating in the Barry Bonds trial , one of my students asked me to blog about steroids. This is a viewpoint commonly applied to drinking, smoking, and other personal choices. And it is probably more appealing when it comes to performance enhancing drugs, because smoking and drinking have more easily recognized externalities, or consequences to others, such as second-hand smoke and a variety of alcohol-induced behaviors.
I am in favor of steroids. I am also against steroids. I have seen how oral steroids affected his body when he had to take them over a modest period as a young boy. I am very thankful for the more targeted steroids that help his vision. So I am in favor of steroids. I am just not in favor of steroids used to enhance performance in sports. Sports generally evolve in one of three ways: There is almost always disagreement about whether these changes are good or bad. But let me provide an example of each.
These titanium composite bats apparently get springier with use, launching balls at speeds not experienced by past Little Leaguers. But the fact that you can hit the ball farther and harder is not necessarily a good thing, particularly when you are hitting it at people who are just learning to use a glove.
Of course, many changes in equipment are designed to provide additional protection, such as better designed football helmets. The unintended consequence of equipment that makes players feel safer can be an unlimited amount of spearing with the helmet, leading to serious injuries for the tackler and the ball carrier.
Swimming changed equipment by allowing buoyant, full body suits. But as record after record disappeared, it quickly became evident that the swimmers were not any better. The records were being set by the equipment. And the swimming establishment pulled back, banning the suits. Golf has not pulled back as quickly from advances in clubs and golf ball materials. You can always make fairways narrower and rough deeper, greens more challenging. The second way that sports evolve is through changes in rules, often to generate more offense.
Baseball added the designated hitter, for example. Purists hate it, fans love it. As with most changes, the market decides whether it stays. In , when pitching was dominant, major league baseball lowered the pitching mound and hitting proliferated.
Three-pointers are here to stay in basketball. If soccer changed the offside rule, the game would change dramatically. The final way sports change is through changing people, the athletes themselves.
This has happened through nutrition, particularly in the last generation. Many baseball fans my age can remember Charlie Hough of the Texas Rangers smoking between innings in the runway between the dugout and the clubhouse. Now, you need a personal trainer by the time you are fifteen if you hope to compete at a high level. Most would say better nutrition is a good thing. Pressures change people, too. None of them played on travel teams, or had personal trainers. None of my friends went to a baseball camp.
We played hotbox, and whiffle ball, and backyard baseball. And then we played every other sport in its season. Now you have to specialize. And steroids in sport are largely a result of the competitive setting that arises from specialization. Specialization and excellence allow people to get rich, and steroids provide an advantage.
Like better nutrition, they change people physically, and there is evidence that they change them emotionally as well. The question is whether they change them for the better. I have seen steroids provide healing. But even in settings with carefully controlled doses, I have also seen them cause damage. And steroids in sports are not carefully controlled.
If they were, human nature says athletes would push past those limits and game the system to gain an advantage think Tour de France. The drugs are new enough, and they change often enough, that it is difficult to estimate long-term effects. But, as with most things that provide short-term benefit, the tendency is to underestimate long-term harm if you are making the decision. What seems certain is that, over time, steroids will exclude the non-steroid user from the game.
There are a fixed number of slots available on pro teams, and college teams, and high school teams. It will become evident that you do not play if you do not take steroids.
And, as with personal trainers and travel teams, steroids will be taken at younger and younger ages. As the Little League article in the Wall Street Journal indicates, we pull back from other types of changes in sports because we see the potential for people to be harmed at significant levels.
But suffice it to say that steroids have the potential to do untold damage when compared to differences in equipment, especially when they are taken for advantage, and not simply for healing. But if it happens, the effects of their choices will not just be limited to what happens to their bodies. I can make serious justice arguments against allowing steroids in sports.
But even if they are refuted, those unintended consequences that arise from changing people, not just equipment or rules, weigh heavy on my mind. But steroids should be banned from sports. I want to start of by saying that I too am against steroids in sports. Until the past decade there was really not a significant punishment to prevent players from using them.
Players were basically just given a slap on the wrist and continued to get to play. Many of these players had adopted a conseqentialist point of view. SInce there were no real foreseable consequences to using them, players figured that the benefits of using them far outweighed the potential consequences of getting caught.
While I believe that the current punishments could be harsher, I do believe that they are on the right track. This can be seen by the recent retiring of Manny Ramirez. After being caught using performance enhancing drugs again, Ramirez was suspended for much of this season. Instead of deciding to continue playing, he decided to retire.
If the MLB and any other sport for that matter really want to stop the use of performance enhancing drugs, i think that they need to start giving REAL penatlies like being suspended for several seasons or possibly suspending the player for life. You are right; steroids should be banned from sports. They provide an advantage to the athletes who use them, and what do they have to show for it?
Great role models for children these days! Personally, if I were an athlete using steroids I would feel as if my career was a lie. A similar comparison would be if a student cheated their way through college. Would it really feel that rewarding to receive a diploma? I also agree with your opinion on steroids for medicinal purposes, and I am happy that your son has experienced clear vision because of them. With steroids there is a time and a place and a required legitimate prescription , sports just is not one of them.
This is a very fun topic to talk about. I have wasted many hours, if not days, discussing steroids and advances in equipment simultaneously with my friends. Let me start off by saying I have used steroids, twice, to recover from a torn rotator cuff. Therefore I too am in favor of medical steroids. But steroids in the game I am not a fan of. I like the DH because I believe it makes the game better and allows pitchers to focus on just pitching. Besides that, I consider myself a baseball purist.
Yes, I loved using my aluminum bats in high school, but when I go to hit the ball around with my cousins, we use wood. Now back to steroids. I believe that during the steroid era pre-testing we have no clue the extent steroids were used. I know major league and minor leaguers who have told me stories of how their teammates would stick themselves after a rough game.
So if anything it just aids in keeping from trailing off at the end of the season. Do I believe Bonds used roids? Do I believe his record is flawed, no. I believe children should not use PEDs for non medical purposes. Major leaguers I think have a duty to give themselves any edge they can, BUT should stay within the rules of the game. That is why I think many went to the legal supplements that many high school football players are using and found concoctions close to roids.
How much regulation should be put? The spitball, steroids, AstroTurf, etc. But the way the game is unlevel switche betweenhitters and pitchers. In my opinion, steroids were the only thing benefitting pitchers and hitters alike.