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Saturday, August 3. 2013
I'll open with a statement which is derived from the post I recently made regarding Libertarian thought. I believe if athletes want to use drugs or steroids, the choice is theirs to decide if using them will help them improve.
I know this is a controversial position, but if someone wants to use a product which may well cause cancer, shrink genitalia, or otherwise harm them, why should we stop them?
However, I don't support breaking rules. Rules in sports help focus players on developing talent rather than using technology to short-circuit the system. Golf is well known for its use of guidelines to introduce new products, and recently made a rule change limiting putters. I have used products in golf that can help me reduce my slice, and hit balls which fly further than those allowed on the tour. But the USGA limits what technology can be used by professionals because technology can trump talent.
I don't know how to play the violin, so the technology which makes a Stradivarius a great violin won't make me a better violinist. But if Stradivarius provided a tool which moved my fingers to their proper positions and moved my bow across the strings in proper fashion, I could suddenly compete with Itzhak Perlman and barely take a class!
This is where the issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs veers from the path of choice and into the realm of 'cheating', for lack of a better term. I have many friends who believe drug use in sports is something which should be allowed. Their position is based on the fact athletes have short time spans to earn their money, and if a PED can help them earn more and perform better, what right do we have to stop them?
Well, I think my example of the violin pretty much sums it up.
If I play linebacker, but I'm undersized and slow, I have physical limitations which may prevent me from going pro. I have two choices to make if I am intent on going pro. I can work on developing talent which will help me overcome these limitations or I can take drugs to bulk up and build muscle. One takes time, effort and concentration while the other can yield results with considerably less effort.
Drug and steroid users who get sick shouldn't concern us when it comes to making rules, the rules aren't to protect them from harming themselves, but to protect those who develop talent and put considerable effort into developing talent. The users made a choice to help their career, and it was a bad choice for them in the long run.
It may seem that I've taken a standard stance opposing steroid use. Actually, I haven't. I oppose them for myself (we all have personal standards) and I oppose them in sports because they prevent us from seeing true talent shine. Most people feel banning PEDs can keep players safe, 'preserves the game' (all sports are different today than they were 50 years ago), or "prevents an arms race" (all sports have varying types of arms races occurring).
If you want proof of how much drugs can enhance your performance, just watch the following video.
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I'd like to go on record as noting that that's exactly what an LSD trip is like. They didn't leave out a single detail.
As for the subject, ol' Drools and I were talking about it in email and I noted that the NFL should be the one exception, because it's the one sport where being big IS the name of the game. And, as he noted, if everyone's doing it, then no one has an advantage.
Coincidentally, right after that I came across an article on 'sports frauds' which said this about Lance Armstrong:
Of the 21 riders who stood on the podium during Lance's seven consecutive Tour de France victories, only one - Fernando Escartín, who finished third in Armstrong's first Tour win in 1999 - has never been implicated in a doping scandal. Jan Ullrich, who finished second to Armstrong four times, just came out and said his old rival should keep the victories. Ullrich has a point: Nobody else during that time raced clean, so Lance was merely first among dopers.
In regards to sports, one thing Droolie didn't touch upon is that one of the main arguments against drugs is that it's 'cheating' because you're now using an artificial enhancement to beat some old timer's record. The problem is that between livelier baseballs and better bats and golf clubs and all the rest, those records are already being broken by nothing more than 'artificial enhancements'. The drugs are just another piece of the puzzle.
Nice to know the description was accurate.
The only thing I'd say about football as an exception is that speed is also a major factor. I'll take speed over size 75% of the time. A smaller player, with faster reaction time, will knock the larger player off his stance on each matchup.
I had a conversation with a good friend who knows almost everything there is to know about baseball. I explained my view that steroids in baseball were not a major factor for a few reasons:
1. if pitchers use it, then it's fair
2. it doesn't improve eyesight, so you can't hit more balls
His response changed my mind. He pointed out while pitchers on steroids 'evened' the arms race, it still diminished the development of skill. Anyone who can throw accurately but can't hit 90 mph, could use steroids and potentially get up to 99 mph. This could reduce reliance on skill pitching, such as the curveball or sinker, and alter the balance of power in pitching, causing teams to find players who can hit fastballs. That didn't change my mind, but it was meaningful. I pointed out teams constantly seek an edge, and this only changed the edge they were seeking.
He then pointed out steroids would allow hitters to turn long fly balls into home runs. Apparently, they also improve 'twitch speed', which provides more torque to a bat, making a potentially slow roller much faster, leading to more hits and runs.
In each case, the key point was skill being offset by power. If power is the only name of the game, sports should focus on letting PEDs into the game.
I like to think speed and skill as equal in importance to power in every sport.
It's more true in the NFL than in most other sports, but pro athletes (and the much larger number who, when high school or college age, try and fail to make the pros) seriously abuse their bodies to the point that it takes years off their life expectancies. Many of them die of strokes or heart attacks before they turn 50, proving that there is such a thing as too much exercise.
Viewed against that picture, the added risk from using steroids disappears in the noise.
If any group cared as much about athletes' health as, say, PETA does about race horses, they wouldn't bother trying to ban PEDs; they would try to ban the sports themselves, or at least change the rules so that they're no more strenuous than slow-pitch softball.
And if they succeeded, I believe we'd be a worse-off world.
Being an adult is all about being allowed to take on whatever risks you consider to be worthwhile. For anyone else (except maybe your spouse) to question that choice is, at least in spirit, unlibertarian.
I blew out my knee in slow-pitch softball. Guy slid into home trying to score and took me out in the process. I was standing to the side, there was no play, and he wanted to make it look dramatic.
When I had the knee repaired, the doctor told me he had more injuries from softball than any other sport, because older, overweight and out of shape men (I was neither, being 24 and very in shape) believe it's not a strenuous sport, and try to be weekend warriors.
I agree with your premise, the issue isn't the steroids or drugs. But I will stick to my belief they spoil the game.
Whether they actually make you bigger or speed the recovery time is immaterial. Speeding the recovery time allows you to get bigger, faster.
Still, the issue comes down to whether you're using them to offset a level of skill or speed which you lack, and that is generally the reason.
It's an unfair advantage, a technological change which alters the nature of the game. Allowing everybody to use them doesn't make it fair, either, if some people realize it can be dangerous and won't use them.
Steroids doesn't make you magically bigger or stronger, it helps you recover faster so you can work at higher intensity more often. It still takes a lot of work to get that big and explosive.
I don't think anyone would like the NFL as much void of steroids as steroids help players heal quicker and stay on the field longer through injuries.
I am for banning using the head in tackles and taking shots at a players head and I could even get used to having no kickoffs as they're pretty much useless now anyways with the change back to the 35 yard line.
You can quote me:
"The rules of golf are formulated to make a pointless activity excruciatingly difficult."
Like Mark Twain wrote: "Golf - A good walk spoilt."