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thedrifter
03-24-05, 07:08 AM
Steroid Hype

March 24, 2005


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by Sean Turner

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“There is no nonsense so errant that it cannot be made the creed of the vast majority by adequate governmental action.” -- Bertrand Russell

Last fall, I decided to take a break from writing commentary – while also attempting to isolate myself from the cacophony of political punditry filling the airwaves and print media with accounts of the latest boondoggle from Washington. I succeeded for a while – limiting my television time to cartoons, the Travel Channel, and of course, sports. I foolishly figured that among these viewing choices, I would remain shielded from constant reminders of how increasingly profligate and encroaching politicians have become.

A few programs and skits notwithstanding, the cartoon world remains the untainted playground of child-like humor and boundless imagination. The Travel Channel indulged my fantasies of exotic places that I will likely never see in person. Then there are the sports channels. Among the many scores and memorable highlights, I had to endure yet another government invasion into an otherwise enjoyable aspect of my life. Apparently, no arena is sacred to the yentas of Washington – not your bedroom, not your own business, and certainly not your local ballpark.

The Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative (BALCO) steroids case succeeded in switching the attention of Congressional busybodies from the Social Security debate, to “America’s Pastime” -- an area in which it has no business (like many other areas). During last week’s hearing on steroids in baseball, Congress, in its dictatorial angst, was determined to “clean up” baseball -- ostensibly to eliminate, as Rep. Henry Waxman unconvincingly put it, “the public health danger posed by steroid use.” According to Rep. Waxman, a Democrat from California, and Rep. Tom Davis, a Republican from Virginia and chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, "It is important the American people know the facts on baseball's steroid scandal." Great… On top of being spendthrifts of other people’s income, Congress has now decided to compete with ESPN and the tabloids. Perhaps Congress should form an “Actor Reform Committee” too -- I’m sure it’s important for the American people to know the next actor or actress who’s getting a divorce.

Even if informing the public about steroids was the goal, misplaced as it was, Congress failed miserably – as usual. Much of the rhetoric from various sports writers, et al, continually lauds Congress for creating “the perfect forum for them to get their message out,” as stated by David Marin -- a spokesman for committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis. However, despite accomplishing little more than theatrics, the salient message coming from the hearing was that politicians willfully and frequently abuse their position of authority to impose their beliefs on anyone, at any time. Making the purchase and consumption of steroids and their precursors illegal is but one example. So-called “experts” are fond of citing incidents of suicide and irrational behavior, and narrow studies of steroid abuse to justify its criminalization – while they omit or fail to study any pre-existing psychological disorders or other environmental factors.

Additionally, many of the studies mentioned in both the hearing and elsewhere, tend of focus on merely the abuse of a particular type of steroids – ignoring more tempered usage, or consumption of other kinds of substances classified as steroids. Focusing solely on the effects of excessive consumption of, or participation in any substance or activity does not provide an accurate or complete picture. For example, vitamin A is essential for vision, cell growth, and a healthy immune system. Consuming too much of the vitamin can increase the risk of fractures, according to a recent study. If one were only made aware of the ill effects of the excessive consumption of vitamin A, one would be lead to believe that it should not be consumed at all.

Through all of the sanctimony, the melancholic stories, one-sided “expert” witness testimonies, unimpressive statistics, and inconclusive yet suggestive studies, little if anything was done to educate the “public” about what steroids are. Most people I talk to, and apparently most members of Congress have little or no understanding of steroid composition, the various kinds that exist, their effects, or the existence of other compounds used to counteract many of the adverse side effects reported. And based on the lack of other “expert” witnesses in last week’s hearing to provide such information, it seems Congress’ purported concern for “America’s youth” has little substance.

Few can deny the existence of a certain level of risk associated with the consumption of steroids. However, many, if not all actions carry varying levels of risk – like smoking, drinking, running, or skydiving. Most thinking adults are capable of making countless decisions, performing certain actions, all the while evaluating the risk versus reward of each action. Government attempts to regulate personal behavior is anathema to freedom, and gives fodder to black market commerce – which in turn, increases the level of risk involved with such behavior.

If Major League Baseball wishes to rid itself of steroid use, for whatever reason, it is well within its right to do so – independent of its legality. Parents would do their children a great service by truly educating them about the risks of any and all behavior – and offering themselves as role models, rather than allowing the athletically talented to act as a surrogate. Athletes are no more responsible for the actions of others than anyone else – and television appearances do not provide an exception. Children indeed need good examples; but those primary examples should come from home, and not Congress. For it is at home, where the ultimate responsibility lies. Besides, Congress has proven itself incapable of providing good examples for anyone.

Sean Turner


Ellie

thedrifter
03-24-05, 07:23 AM
Congress Hates Mark McGwire

March 22, 2005


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by Jonathan David Morris
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All right, so now that Major League Baseball has testified before Congress on the use of steroids, the time has come to answer the question: Why? As in: Why, exactly, did Congress hold these hearings? And what, exactly, did they have to gain?

Some would argue last Thursday’s carnival of the stars was “for the kids.” But if you ask me, that theory is for the birds. Yes, Congress trotted out the parents of children who died after emulating ‘roid-using players. And, yes, their testimony grabbed at your heart. It would be great if their stories helped raise awareness in the face of future tragedies. However, the idea that “the kids” are why Congress held these hearings is: (a) hard to believe, since Washington is the same town that routinely screws up public education and occasionally kidnaps little Cubans at gunpoint; and (b) no fun. So let’s examine a few other possibilities.

First up, the “Congress Cares About Baseball’s Integrity” theory. Now, this one has some weight behind it—provided there are real baseball fans in Congress. Why? Because baseball fans tend to be purists. They’re very protective of the national pastime’s past.

When Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season homerun record, people wanted nothing to do with it. Maris hit 61 in 162 games; Ruth hit 60 in 154. (Somewhere, boys were screaming: “Do over! Doesn’t count!") But now that Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa have all exceeded Maris’s total, his reviled 61* are suddenly revered. “Go ask Henry Aaron, go ask the family of Roger Maris, go ask all of the people who played without enhanced drugs if they would like their records compared with the current records,” says former player Sen. Jim Bunning. See what I mean? Baseball’s best days are perpetually behind it. (Sort of like Congress.)

Don’t get me wrong. Steroids hurt the integrity of the game. I’d love it if Plastic Man played for my softball team. The guy’s got retractable arms, after all. That’s the kind of talent Bill Buckner would’ve killed for. However, the only excuse for using a superhuman player is if you’re playing in a superhero league. Same goes for steroids. Health risks aside, the problem is the fact that only some players use them. This means the field is imbalanced. Suddenly wins and losses don’t mean quite as much.

Still, that’s no reason for Congress to hold hearings. For one thing, the words “Congress” and “integrity” go together like oil and whatever it is that oil doesn’t go with. (Water, is it? I’m not a cook.) Secondly, the words “baseball” and “integrity” don’t go together, either. Guys have been corking their bats since back when the Nazis were still using steroids to give women swimmers chest hair. Cheating isn’t new, and Congress knows this.

Next, we have the “Congress Hates Mark McGwire” theory. This one is based on the idea that Congress hates Mark McGwire and wants to keep him out of Cooperstown. Now, I know this sounds like a stretch. But think about it. McGwire cries his way through his opening statement, then proceeds to answer every question with the standard: “I’m not here to talk about the past.” Suddenly folks are starting to wonder if Big Mac is Hall of Fame material. (And why shouldn’t they? The guy’s retired. His past is all he has.)

Meanwhile, McGwire’s nemesis, Jose Canseco, uses the hearings to sell his stupid book. A couple of weeks ago, this guy tells 60 Minutes he recommends steroids. Last week, he changes his mind. And Congress gives him a pass? Something fishy is afoot here. For the first time ever, Canseco seems only marginally more scummy than McGwire. That’s a major coup. Congress gets its way; Canseco gets his. Coincidence? Read the book.

Finally, forget the theories. You want to know why Congress held those hearings? I’ll tell you. Jealousy. Pure, freshly squeezed jealousy. With no added flavors or preservatives.

The players who testified last week were asked if they thought they were role models. To a man, they said yes. They were also asked if they’d support a legislative solution to the steroid problem. Here, they gave the same answer. Talk about sending a message to the kids. “Hey, kids, we’re Congress. Respect us instead!” Tom Davis and Henry Waxman must’ve been drooling.

Say what you will about ballplayers making million-dollar salaries. Just think about all the Americans who wouldn’t have jobs without them. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball. For each, there are hundreds—even thousands—of men and women feeding their kids by selling beer and popcorn. Others direct stadium traffic. Still more design hats and t-shirts. A select few even get paid to write and talk about sports. Is it any wonder kids look up to players? These guys produce revenue. They’re true heroes of the U.S. economy.

That’s more than we can say for the career politicians in Congress. Their idea of making money is voting themselves a raise.

Jonathan David Morris

Ellie