Another Embarrassing Day for the Feds
The United States Government’s latest attempt at moralizing our (former) national pastime finally hit rock-bottom this week as the regrettable prosecution of Roger Clemens, confirmed asshole, no really, produced a resounding chorus of We Do Not Care Not Guilty. Sure there’s plenty of anger to spare a few shots at Congress for wasting our money on this façade of we-must-protect-our-children, but honestly, the money we would have wasted elsewhere not spent on this nonsense wouldn’t slow the rate of growth of our national debt by any perceptible amount. The outrage of this farce is the complete lack of outrage. We don’t really care all that much about performance-enhancing drug use in professional sports; and we shouldn’t.
Quick survey: What is the difference between an athlete using drugs to enhance his performance and an athlete using drugs to be able to perform?
a. There is no difference
b. There is no difference
c. There is no difference
If you answered A, B, or C, you are correct. Our feigned concern at the use of PEDs is purely perception. Science has been integral to improved human performance since the invention of fire, or the wheel, or wearing animal hides, or whatever primitive man first did to manipulate his environment to improve his odds at survival. Sure it seems a stretch to compare injecting engineered chemicals designed specifically to accelerate hormone production to using fire to generate warmth. Yet both dramatically improve human performance while presenting hazards to our children. Athletes (and our grandparents) have long-used drugs inhibiting the proper function of pain receptors in order to perform. The consequences of doing this have been well documented, and they are severe. In spite of this, we have very few voices raised in moral outrage over their use. The sanctimony of the government’s pursuit of performance-enhancers and lack of interest in performance-enablers is regrettably transparent. Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, etc are willing accomplices in the charade. The manufacturers of painkillers are among the largest and most profitable corporations in the world; it is impossible to make it through a televised sporting event without being sold something to mask your back pain, lengthen the duration of an erection, manage allergies, relieve a headache, ad nauseam. But that surely has nothing to do with this.
We generally condone the use of pain-numbing narcotics because the majority of us use them and there are few, if any, lasting consequences; for occasional users. Familiarity creates positive associations in our brains and we ignore the reality of how prevalent the abuse of those drugs is among professional athletes. Few of us have used a performance-enhancer other than caffeine or nicotine, certainly nothing like the steroids we immediately associate with the idea of athletes and drugs. The lasting images we have enhancers are cartoon muscles and horror stories of ‘roid rage. Our limited understanding fuels our fear. The reality is legitimate and widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs will soon be a regular part of life for many of us. There will be few negative side-effects and numerous health benefits. As PEDs become more familiar and accessible, this era of witch hunts and character assassination will be reduced to a regrettable fragment of our inglorious, ignorant past.
In the meantime, we have the self-righteous crusade of moralizers digging through the trash of our fallen sports icons for evidence of cheating; this from a group who has collectively tarnished public faith in government more than anyone since King George III. The political consequences of bungling high profile legal cases against professional athletes are limited. As a voting public, we simply do not care enough to summon any tangible outrage at the people wasting our time and money. And so our political superiors march on in their follies. Last week we learned yet another shot at defaming Lance Armstrong is underway, apparently the embarrassment of the most recent attempt was insufficient deterrence. Of the many problems drugs present to our society, the use of enhancers by pro athletes seeking to sustain their brief opportunity at accumulating wealth and prestige should be near the bottom of our enforcement to-do list. Instead, our government chases high-profile headlines in search of a massive gotcha in front of a massive media. Why? Our appetite for celebrity scandal is insatiable; our interest in the collateral damage is negligible.