McGwire and Steroid Use - the Compass

Are sportswriters performing a public service, in slapping their Scarlet S onto guys like McGwire? 

Or are they being hypocritical in sliding into 'roid users with spikes high, while discreetly looking away from ballplayers who abuse alcohol, cheat on their wives, and cheat by stealing signs and stepping in front of the rubber to pitch?

Are writers on solid ground, in their HOF-righteous-indignation script against athletes who set bad examples for young players?  Or are they casting about for something to stand for, considering that they're the first ones to defend Lady GaGa and and Quentin Tarantino as having no important effect on a jaded, desensitized youth of America anyway?

Here is SSI's own moral compass on the issue, for what it's worth...


=== Lookout Landing ===

Very good article here, written by Graham, and interesting comments to follow.  I applaud his lack of self-righteousness, sense of proportion (towards both the offending and offended interest groups) and detail arguments.


=== The Founding Father ===

Here is James' statement on steroids with respect to Cooperstown.

He argues that steroids, while not that good for you now, are eventually going to be as commonplace in society as Advil is.

James sees steroids as anti-aging drugs.  It's just a question of refining them, and they'll be as routine as dentistry, goes the argument.

I'd have to ask a doctor, or Chemist Kelly, or somebody, whether James is on track with this.


I'm old enough to remember, in the 1960's, that athletes could become controversial for drinking coffee.  (I don't know whether Mormonism, 50 years later, still regards coffee-drinking as sinful, but it did then.)

James' essential point is that the snit fits thrown over steroids now, are going to sound a little bit in retro like the anti-coffee controversies.   The same principle applies to alcohol use, going to movie theaters, etc.

Steroids can often be devastating to your system in their current pop forms.  So can Coca-Cola, cigarettes, being 75 lbs. overweight, etc -- but those aren't litmus tests for the HOF.

Will the steroids panic wear well through history?  James thinks not. 


=== Federal Law ===

Many types of steroids are illegal.   As Jeff Sullivan pointed out, pro sports are loaded with illegal activity, such as throwing a baseball at a person's head at 90 mph, fistfighting in hockey, tackling with intent to injure .... never mind simple threats toward bodily harm.  You could name a million things.

It seems not to have occurred to a lot of people that down on that stadium floor, normal legal standards are suspended, as they were in the Coliseum at Rome.

If the feds want to bust the athletes, the feds should charge them with crimes and hold jury trials.   But is it for sportswriters to take this role?


=== The Player's Union ===

In its own post.


=== Dr. D's Position ===

If and when the player's union wants to clean up steroids, it is free to do so. 

When the federal government tries to bust any other union's exploitation of its own members, most Americans cry bloody murder...

It's the union itself that has the grubby hands in this one.  In the meantime, I'll look the other way on steroid use, the same way I do on player partying, stealing signs, throwing at batters' heads, etc.

In an increasingly feminized America, it's a very male arena down there.  Don't act so shocked when the ballplayers act like Neanderthals in the heat of battle.  We're the ones who encouraged them to enter the arena.


Dr D



Doctors will be prescribing safe and effective HGH to every child when he is old enough to tolerate them.  Seriously.  I believe the real break in human health and safety is going to be refining HGH use so that everyone can exercise more effectively, stay thinner, live long and prosper.


What Matt said.  Give it 20 years and HGH will redefine health care.  We'll be putting it on corn flakes like they threw iodine in salt a hundred years ago to fix a health scare.
So we're gonna have to figure out whether we want to punish ballplayers for "cheating" when your average American is stuffing those compounds in his system on a daily basis.
When HGH is a diet supplement and not some black-market boogieman, this will become the height of hypocrisy.  It'll be fun to watch.
Furthermore, there are players in the HOF who have done steroids already. I absolutely believe that.  If it was found out later that a HOFer was on 'roids or HGH when he played, what exactly is gonna be done about it?
It's not possible to keep all the users out of the Hall, and as I recall, none of the things they were doing were against the rules of the game at the time they did them.  Big Mac had a huge bottle of andro in the front of his locker, because it worked, and it wasn't against the rules. 
All the outcry now is because no sportswriter had the gumption to write about the excess that was enabling records to be shatters while it was happening, to force a rules change from the outside.  The Players Union wanted steroids and MLB wanted steroids.  It was good for business, and sportswriters were complicit.  HGH is the next step, but unlike steroids has the potential to absolutely revolutionize medicine for all of us.
But because the writers missed the boat on condemning use during the height of the era, they have to pile on now.  And will likely continue piling on long past the expiration date of the argument.  Eras change.  When HGH becomes legal and refined other pro sports will immediately jump on and use it with their athletes.  And baseball will do its best to drag its feet, just as it did coming the other way on getting into drug testing.  The union is an anchor on the league.  Whenever the players realize THEY are the union, maybe it'll get better.
But I'm not counting on it.

Arne's picture

One thing to note is that amphetamines, "greenies," were apparently very commonly used starting in the '50s, and continue to be used today. I guess they've never been illegal-they were banned by MLB in '06 though-but certainly players weren't taking them with a prescription, and that was illegal starting in 1970. They're obviously PEDs, but you just don't hear about them.


But apparently youse guys agree with James about the long-term prospectus on steroids...
I don't know much about them at all, but it's reassuring to hear guys who do, reinforce the idea...
So, what, in 100-200 years the life expectancy will be up by 5 years, 10, 15?


In 100 years, we will have HGH in our diet, the extract found in red wine as a vitamin supplement we take every day to stave off aging, and medicine will have greatly advanced.  People will be able to live to 150 or more.


Just out of curiosity, how about folks in their 40's?  :- ) are they going to get in on the Methusaleh Syndrome?


...granted, these "what's new in science" documentaries are part sci-fi and part fact...but I recently saw a speculentary talking about current research in med tech advances and their lead scientist estimated that if you were currently under the age of 50 and could manage to survive another 50 years, you would have a lot more time after that than you might expect - *IF*!!...the med tech doesn't get horded by the wealthy and kept away from the public by cheapskate universal healthcare plans run by poor and inefficient governments.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.