Jason Giambi of the New York Yankees took steroids. So did Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants, though he claims not to have known what they were.
Ho-hum. These revelations are of interest only to fans who deify athletes and to politicians who use any excuse to increase their power. Like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), in this case.
Steroids have long been used by gym rats to create bulging muscles and professional wrestlers to build bulk. It was long assumed, obviously with good reason, that other sporting pros, particularly baseball and football players, often sought artificial aid in adding muscle.
Real scandal typically comes only when top athletes violate competition rules to gain an advantage. Olympic champions Ben Johnson and Marion Jones were disgraced by revelations that they used steroids to improve their performance. Blood doping and injecting human growth hormones are similarly forbidden by many sporting organizations as artificial enhancements.
Nevertheless, observes Charlie Francis, who aided Johnson: “Steroids are so ubiquitous, so omnipresent in sport; they have been for decades.” Thus, he adds, “There is a level playing field out there. It just isn’t the playing field you thought it was.”
That’s probably not good. But it hardly constitutes a national crisis.
Steroids can hurt the taker. That’s a particular concern when the users are young. Thus the need for more parental involvement, improved educational efforts, and better rules enforcement.
Reliance on steroids also undercuts the perceived fairness of sports competitions. Cheating begets cheating, as athletes are loath to fall behind their peers. The most important enforcers here are associations and leagues which fear losing support, both fan and financial.
But in many cases the best response is neglect.
DOES IT MATTER, FOR instance, if professional wrestlers take steroids? Hardly. Where adult athletes are willing to risk their health, fans don’t care if their role models have feet of clay, and athletic integrity is irrelevant to the sport, why should anyone care?
In none of these cases should Washington be concerned. But apparently Sen. McCain is.
After the revelations involving Giambi and Bonds, from leaked testimony before a grand jury, Sen. McCain declared that he was “dismayed though not surprised.” Major League Baseball had better set up “a minimum standard of drug testing,” or, he threatened, he would introduce legislation to do so. If MLB does not act, “clearly we have to act legislatively, which we don’t want to do.”
Obviously he wants Congress to act.
Why? “Major League Baseball and its players insist on turning a blind eye to the misconduct that threatens to undermine the legitimacy of their sport,” said Sen. McCain. “There are many fans disturbed,” he added.
But that’s not obviously true. A lot of fans might believe that Barry Bonds has hit a couple extra home runs because he used steroids. Surely no one thinks that the Boston Red Sox dramatically dispatched the New York Yankees because players used steroids.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
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