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The Evolving Dodger Thoughts Stance on Steroids - Day 4
2004-12-03 07:41
by Jon Weisman

Well, that was a long Day 3, wasn't it?

Back in March, I initiated an interactive attempt to evolve, with the help of you readers, a coherent policy on steroids and baseball. It was a qualified success. I think we were on the path to something reasonable. However, I didn't go the distance with it, partly because my distaste for the subject leapfrogged my desire to learn about it, partly because I started to question whether there could ultimately be a coherent policy.

In the wake of this week's revelations, I'm going to bring the policy out for at least one more day. As before, I will highlight the most noteworthy comments on the previous day - nine months ago. (If you want to read the policy draft they were working from, click the Day 3 link above.)

  • Good people from both sides on the argument essentially stated that no reasonable person has evidence or can believe that a) steroids cause harm and b) steroids don't cause harm. It's my take that for now, we simply don't know the extent of the effect of steroids on the human body. And that in any event, even if you're the one person who is sure you have all the answers, it doesn't get you anywhere when there is so much doubt out there.

  • If you want to ban steroids, it doesn't do any good to make a criterion "because they enhance performance." That is an oil slick on a slippery slope - there are so many things players do to enhance performance, "weightlifting, jogging, Gatorade, tofu," as I wrote in March - that to draw a line at steroids is too arbitrary to be effective as a policy decision. You need other criteria (which may well exist).

  • Rob McMillin had grave concerns about privacy:

    Maybe you (MLB) are the boss, but is this the sort of step you want to take in a free society? This is bad at so many levels:

    - It implies widespread guilt. (Never mind that the accusers haven't made their case that steroids are actually bad.)

    - It means that private entities are collecting data wholesale that public ones can't, not without a warrant. This is the kind of grease that leads to very real slippery slope problems.

    Reaction 1: Shoot, McMillin used "slippery slope" before I did. Nuts. I guess that's why they call them cliches. But wait, if I combine a second cliche with the first, maybe that will seem original!

    Reaction 2: If you want to tackle an issue even more divisive and complicated than steroids, privacy's your ticket. I have to admit to wildly conflicting views on privacy - I believe I can safely argue with conviction from both sides. Part of that is a belief sympathetic to McMillin's; part of that is a belief that the ship has already sailed and that there is little left to protect. If you told me that some business and government agency knew what I had for dinner, weighed and dreamed last night, I might just believe you.

    That leaves me where I began Day 3. If adults engaging in a contract can agree on the terms of that contract, with a sincere effort to limit privacy invasion as much as possible that's probably the best you can do. I'll need more convincing - and feel free to go for it - that baseball should be a privacy battleground.

  • Over at Baseball Musings, David Pinto makes the anti-Prohibition argument:

    Let athletes take these under a doctor's care. Do you think a physician would have given a player female fertility pills? We're not going to stop steroid use by banning it. But maybe we can control the bad side effects controling the use.

    As the great-grandson of bootleggers, as a believer that Prohibition didn't work for alcohol and as a sympathizer for some aspects of marijuana legalization, even though I've never smoked the stuff (that's right - Dodger Thoughts is clean as a whistle, except the kind of whistle that gets passed around among people who smoke pot), I want to try to work this argument in to the discussion. But I will do so taking into account that not everyone is pro-legalization.

    So that's where I am on Day 4. I make no promises for if or when a Day 5 will come - especially since today is the day before a weekend and I've already whined about how busy I am - but as before, I would love to read your suggestions, comments or criticisms in the comments. Maybe we'll inch forward.

    Current Beliefs

    1) No one should use steroids, drugs or supplements that they know could be potentially harmful to the body long-term.

    2) No one should be pressured to use these supplements by the idea that they need them to stay competitive.

    3) There is debate in the scientific community about how harmful steroids are. (Indeed, steroids are prescribed to promote health in certain cases to people of all ages and ilks.) They might be harmful to athletes, but some respected people say that you cannot conclude that they are harmful to athletes. No matter how convinced one is about one's position, this debate undeniably exists.

    4) In the face of this confusion, it is not automatic that baseball should ban steroids.

    5) However, there is sufficient risk that steroids are harmful for baseball, a private enterprise, to take measures to regulate their use, including their possible ban from the game.

    6) A ban on steroids, or any other regulation, should have the support of both management and the players. This is critical.

    7) That support should manifest itself in a punishment structure that is carefully vetted, and that includes both reprimand and, if appropriate, rehabilitation.

    8) In particular, the institution of drug-testing has serious human rights consequences. Therefore, methods for eliminating steroids from the game, such as drug-testing, should be instituted with the greatest care possible to protect those rights.

    9) Punishment should not be applied retroactively - someone who broke a current or future rule, before that rule was enacted, should not be subject to reprimand.

    10) Baseball is a game in which unfair advantages are frequent. Dodger Stadium works against hitters, baseball in Colorado works against pitchers, the first half of the 20th century worked against African American ballplayers, beer prices work against the consumer. There is no need to break out asterisks for statistics compiled by players who might be found to have used steroids. The record book is the record book.

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