Saturday, October 07, 2006

How to get serious about steroids in sports

I have a proposal for dealing with steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs in sports.

I have the case of Major League Baseball in mind because of what I see as the scapegoating of Barry Bonds to cover up the more important underlying scandal that if Bonds did use steroids when it’s alleged he did, he did not break the rules as they stood at the time. Since a huge range of substances could qualify as "performance-enhancing drugs" in sports—can any among us explain why caffeine doesn't count?—the rule-makers must take responsibility for creating specific and effective deterrents.

I bring this up not to defend Bonds or to get into assigning blame for the outdated rules of a few years ago. Instead, I mean to illustrate the extent to which the lessons of the Bonds case do not seem to have sunk in. The rule-makers (in baseball’s case, the players’ union and the owners, perhaps in that order) still don't seem interested in writing the toughest possible rules.

Here's my proposal: define banned substances, test aggressively when reliable tests are available, and save samples in the care of a neutral, confidential agent. Then test retroactively as new procedures become available so that players can't get away with using HGH, for instance, by taking advantage of the fact that the tests haven't caught up to the drug. Then enact this rule: if reliable tests from two separate samples EVER show you were juicing, your very existence is stripped from the official records of baseball. No asterisks, no nothing. If we catch your HGH use in 2018, you never played.

Don't you think that would get in players' heads a little?

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