New steroid baseball laws
In mid-March, a House committee began investigating allegations of steroid use in major league baseball, resulting in an amended steroid policy for the league. Now players testing positive for the banned substances, which include all steroids, steroid precursors, ephedra, human growth hormone, diuretics and the supposedly undetectable tetrahydrogestrinone, face fines, suspensions and an ‘outing’ by the league whereby all offenders’ names will be made public.
These drugs are not illegal, mind you, so long as you’re not a major league baseball player.
And we at YES! Weekly see some hypocrisy at work here.
For one thing, the US government has always been reluctant to interfere with the workings of professional baseball ‘— witness their hesitance to alter the sport’s exemption to anti-trust laws (baseball, by the way, is the only professional sport to enjoy this exemption). Why now do they feel the need to intervene?
For another, we recognize that humans all across society take substances to maximize the performance of their bodies. Many Americans take drugs like beta blockers, lipid controllers, mood enhancers and the like, and so much of our lives is managed chemically these days that we’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t use something on a regular basis that is not naturally produced by the human body. And we’d wager that most members of the House of Representatives start their days with a handful of meds, too.
Of course, baseball purists say these artificially pumped-up athletes damage the integrity of the game and that their feats are somehow less valid than those of players who do not use performance-enhancing substances. We disagree with this as well. According to baseball’s antitrust exemption, the game is entertainment and the players are performers, just like actors, artists and musicians. Does Jerry Garcia’s creative output mean anything less because he was flying on LSD when he wrote ‘“Dark Star?’” Were Ernest Hemingway’s literary contributions negligible because he drank copious amounts of alcohol? And where does this stance leave Hunter S. Thompson?
And there’s another thing that nobody wants to talk about: steroids may have saved baseball. After the strike season of 1994, legions of die-hard fans swore off the game and its popularity was at an all-time low. Ticket prices were too high; players seemed apathetic and once football season began nobody cared.
But the 1998 season brought life back to baseball. That was the year of the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, each chasing Roger Maris’ record of 61 homers that had stood since 1961. The fans came back to watch these two monsters go yard night after night after night.
Anyone who had followed McGwire’s career could see that he was almost twice the man he had been during his rookie season of 1987, but as long as the home runs kept coming, as long as the fans came through the turnstiles, watched the games on TV and bought MLB merchandise nobody asked the hard questions, and the US government was not a part of the picture.
We wonder why they’re getting involved now.