Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Merc Sets a High Bar

The San Jose Mercury News has lost itself in HGH hysteria:

Major League Baseball wants fans to believe it is actively engaged in catching players who use performance-enhancing drugs. The sport drew headlines last week by announcing it "hopes" to have a blood test available next year to catch players who use human growth hormone.

Too bad the test most likely won't be ready for years to come.

The notion that baseball is "doing everything we can" to catch players who abuse the rules, as an MLB spokesman said last week, is a gross exaggeration.

So now, apparently, the test of baseball's seriousness regarding PEDs is how quickly its ownership and management -- which consists of art dealers, media executives, car salesmen, and an increasingly senile shipbuilder -- develops a scientific test which has heretofore eluded chemists, scientists, and Olympic doping officials who have been dealing with this stuff for decades. Such a criticism, it strikes me, is akin to saying that the NAACP isn't serious about advocating for its members because it hasn't yet stopped racism. Sure, baseball -- like the NAACP for that matter -- may have some serious flaws as to how they go about addressing these concerns, but rapping them for not yet solving the chronic and possibly intractable problems they face is asking a bit much, no?

But the Merc goes on:

The United States Anti-Doping Agency is the organization that works with professional sports leagues and the United States Olympic Committee to thwart the use of banned drugs. The agency's research budget to develop new tests was a paltry $2 million in 2006. In contrast, Major League Baseball's revenues were $5.2 billion last year . . .we'll know baseball and other professional U.S. sports are getting serious about catching future cheats when baseball's contribution to the agency's research budget is greater than, say, Barry Bonds' salary ($15 million in 2007).

Setting aside the fact that there is no mention of the contribution of football, hockey, basketball, or the Olympic Committee -- baseball, it seems, is solely responsible for stopping PEDs -- how are baseball's gross revenues, or even the salary of its marquee players, relevant to its contribution to Anti-Doping efforts? I make a decent living as an attorney, and I have broadleaf growing in my front lawn. While I'm sure the problem will remain a chronic one, I've tried to address it as best I can. By the Merc's logic, however, I am not serious about it unless I pour a couple thousand bucks into the effort. The relative risk posed by my weed problem and the benefits gained by solving it are irrelevant, it would seem.


The World Anti-Doping Agency used a test for HGH at the most recent Summer and Winter Olympics, but not a single athlete tested positive, suggesting that the test needs to go back to the labs for further work.

I'll concede that it's improbable that no Olympians were doping, but doesn't this beg the question of whether it's reasonable to criticize baseball for failing to have an effective HGH test? If the World Anti-Doping Agency -- an organization tasked with eradicating PEDs from an event which has been a PED magnet for decades -- is still getting fooled, how can we expect baseball to have cracked this nut by now?

Look, PEDs are a problem, and baseball was admittedly late to take note of it. However, as the example of the Olympics, football, cycling and, indeed, the whole damn war on drugs shows, the use of illegal drugs is not a problem that is going to instantly go away. To pretend that it could if we simply developed the right test or passed the right law is silly, and by criticizing baseball's alleged lack of seriousness on this basis is in and of itself unserious.

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