Sunday, June 9, 2013

Biogenesis Scandal Demonstrates that Bud Selig and Major League Baseball Still Have not Contained the PED Problem

Major League Baseball ignored rampant performance-enhancing drug (PED) abuse among its players in the 1990s as Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire--among many others--disgraced the sport and trashed its most hallowed records; in the 2000s MLB asserted that its PED problem had been solved but the fact that high profile players still test positive for PEDs is an indicator both that players believe that they can get away with cheating and that players believe that PEDs work, even though economists/"stat gurus" insist otherwise. The ongoing Biogenesis scandal--which implicates more than 20 MLB players for using PEDs, including admitted PED offender Alex Rodriguez and 2011 NL MVP Ryan Braun--strongly suggests that PED users continue to win major awards and lead teams to championships.

Major League Baseball's late and tepid response to rampant PED abuse illustrates that Commissioner Bud Selig's greatest flaw is that he lacks the toughness to make difficult decisions--or, to put it another way, it seems as if Selig has too much "good" Captain Kirk in his personality. If Selig had been an effective leader then he would have tackled the PED problem head on from the beginning, much like NBA Commissioner David Stern instituted a strong policy against so-called recreational drugs in the 1980s when rampant drug abuse threatened both the league's image and the league's integrity (why should anyone pay to watch people who are literally getting high on the job?).

A few MLB players had the integrity to speak out against PED use even when it was not popular to express such opinions; one of those outspoken players was Frank Thomas, whose physique never changed during his career and who was robbed of at least one MVP (in 2000) by someone who later admitted using PEDs (Jason Giambi). Thomas recently said, "When I played, guys all said, 'Let's get to the Hall of Fame.' Now guys are like, 'Let's do five years and make $150 million, and you're set for life. Who cares?' I think that's the feeling among most of the guys now. It's shameful, what's happened over the last seven, eight years with this whole scandal, but guys continue to try it. I played against Barry and Roger and I know they're Hall of Famers, but what they did at the end of their careers is going to hurt them for life, I believe. It's a sad thing, because I know how good those guys were. Barry could have been a 500-500 [home runs and steals] guy before he started doing this stuff. Really, was it necessary? He could have gone down as one of the greatest all-around players of all time, if not the greatest."

MLB's PED cheaters damaged the game, damaged the careers of the clean players and very likely damaged their own bodies as well; it is wrong to suggest that PED abuse was somehow a victimless crime or not even a crime at all: in 1988 the federal government made it illegal to use steroids without a medical prescription, so MLB's PED users since that time broke federal laws, received their inflated salaries under false pretenses and essentially stole money from the clean athletes who were not competing on a level playing field. 

It will not be easy to clean up MLB or any of the other sports leagues/federations that are infested with PED cheaters--but that is no excuse to just give up; not every thief, con man and murderer is caught, prosecuted and sent to jail but law enforcement authorities and the judicial system are still duty bound/honor bound to pursue the criminals who can be caught, prosecuted and sent to jail. 

No comments: