Scolding Barry Bonds

What was Babe Ruth on, besides too many beers? No one knows.
800 years before Christ, Greek Olympic contestants ate sheep testicles
to enhance their testosterone levels.

The scolds are out of control.
First, in order to judge whose (if anyone’s) business is the
‘enhancement’ of performance in sports with steroids and the like—you
have to know the acronyms of the major players.

  • We have the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), assigned to
    Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department, which should be scary enough.
  • Then there’s the USADA (the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency). That’s a national affiliate of
  • the WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency). The WADA guys are an independent foundation created through a collective initiative
  • led by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Independent, my ass. They may have started out independent,
but the USADA has recently collaborated with the DEA and the ante is
being upped substantially. From Ann Shipley’s piece today in the Washington Post;

The collaboration has “had an absolutely enormous effect,” said
Don Catlin, who has been involved in anti-doping efforts since the
early 1980s as the director of UCLA’s Olympic Analytical Laboratory,
which services the USADA. “When I look at the 23 years of work
before Balco and what we were able to do — yeah, we would grind out
positives and occasionally have a big hit — but when the government
decides to go after it and comes in with their tools . . . they
[wiretap], they pull out e-mails. I was amazed.”

Join the crowd, Don. Many people have been amazed at what happens when
government decides to go after things, or people, or insurgents.
Perhaps (can this be far off?) insurgents, supplying Barry Bonds with
steroids, will get Bonds sent off, incommunicado, to Guantanamo.
Off the wall? Probably. But there is a question—and it is a considerable question, that rational people are asking—whether anyone
individually has the right to decide what is legal enhancement in the
sports world. Particularly, whether any self-appointed morals-manager
has the right to determine who is clean and who ‘unclean’ in a world
where testing is three steps behind chemistry and performers sign
hundred-million dollar contracts.
What was Babe Ruth on, besides too many beers? No one knows.
800 years before Christ, Greek Olympic contestants ate sheep testicles
to enhance their testosterone levels. From Wikipedia;

handful of commentators maintain that as outright prevention of doping
is an impossibility, and that all doping should be legalized. However,
most disagree with this assertion, pointing out the harmful long-term
effects of many doping agents. With doping legal, all competitive
athletes would be compelled to use drugs, the net effect would be a
level playing field but with widespread health consequences.

First of all, that handful of commentators is growing by the day, but second, the harmful long-term effects of many doping agents is no different and way less damaging than the effects of drugs currently advertised to the general public.
Forty thousand deaths from Vioxx. Admitted side-effects of drugs commonly advertised in double-page glossy magazine ads promise

  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • High blood pressure
  • Stomach and intestinal bleeding, with or without warning, could lead to hospitalization or death.
  • Allergic reaction, including swelling of the face, lips, tongue and/or throat.
  • Serious kidney problems occur rarely, including acute kidney failure.
  • Severe liver problems, including hepatitis, jaundice and liver failure, occur rarely.

Death is mentioned as a side-effect.
Interesting side note: In 2005, the DEA seized $477 million worth of drugs. According to the White House’s Office of Drug Control Policy, the total value of all drugs sold in the US is as much as $64 billion a year and the War on Drugs (sigh, another
war) sucks up $18 billion a year. Thus, it costs us $38 to recover each
$1 in drugs and that $1 that we do grab is 7% of what’s out there. Not
much of a cost/benefit ratio. Merck, on the other hand, made tens of
billions on Vioxx and only killed tens of thousands, for a much better
The January 29th New Yorker has a great article about New York Giants running back Tiki Barber, titled Walking Away. Barber is lucky, wealthy and talented, but he’s hobbling away far more than walking.

“In 2005 alone, he took three hundred and fifty-seven handoffs, each promising temporary, if not long-lasting, disfigurement.” The last sentence in the article—“This morning I woke up and both of my knees were killing me. I took some shots, and I told myself, I’m not going to miss this.

In my same day’s Washington Post, there’s an article by Rick Weiss, titled USDA Backs Production of Rice With Human Genes;

Agriculture Department has given a preliminary green light for the
first commercial production of a food crop engineered to contain human
genes, reigniting fears that biomedically potent substances in
high-tech plants could escape and turn up in other foods.

plan, confirmed yesterday by the California biotechnology company
leading the effort, calls for large-scale cultivation in Kansas of rice
that produces human immune system proteins in its seeds.

proteins are to be extracted for use as an anti-diarrhea medicine and
might be added to health foods such as yogurt and granola bars.

Human genes in food crops, which is inevitable because we can do it,
may save a majority of the two million children who die each year from
diarrhea. Not your kid, not mine, but the child of a couple million other parents.
Thus we’ve come from an ancient olympian to Barry Bonds and made no
logical or enforceable conclusion in the intervening 2,800 years. What
we have accomplished, is to allow the moral scolds, the Taliban of our imperfect society, to team independent foundations with the Justice Department and send people to jail.
Not all people, just the ones we can find. Not all offenders, just the ones who test positive (sometimes). Not all sports heroes, just the ones who aren’t up to date on the latest masking agents or are too good a target, like Barry.
Jim Poniewozik’s fine article in Time Magazine, titled This Is Your Nation on Steroids, opens;

on a football game, and you’ll see cheerleaders with seam-popping
breast implants, aging sportscasters with suspiciously tenacious
hairlines and commercials for pills that promise Olympian erections.
Turn on the news, and you’ll hear about how athletes have got the
notion that it’s O.K. to use artificial substances to improve their
bodies. Appalling! Where would they get an idea like that?”

Irony, as they say, is the soul of wit.
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