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Daring to Answer the PED Question

CJ DUDEK, Sports Columnist

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A wise man spends an entire lifetime seeking knowledge only to find a sea of questions still roaring before him.

This is not the case with performance enhancing drugs.

For everyone who read Bill Simmons’ latest piece (which, by the way, was a well done article in every facet of writing and has already incited debate across the internet) there are plenty of answers to the PED question. While Simmons addresses plenty of examples of wrongdoing in sports, he only damns wrongdoing and chastises the media and fans for not asking, ‘why don’t we care that these guys cheat, and why don’t we hold them to a higher standard?’

A fully loaded question has a chamber full of answers. Performance enhancing profiling, a seemingly arbitrary selection process of who cheated and who didn’t based off of whether or not fans and the media like athletes, is a problem and one answer to the question.

Lance Armstrong is a jerk who was raked across the coals by everybody with a blog, podcast, column, radio show, or television talk show because his miraculous comeback from cancer was tainted. While Armstrong most assuredly deserved all of the scrutiny he deserved, there are the following points to consider.

First, fans expect everyone in the Tour De France to bike across an average of 2,235 miles. The shortest day of riding a bike during the tour is roughly 94 miles. People bike for 21 straight days, or three consecutive weeks depending on how you look at it. The Pyrenees Mountain Chain is 305 miles long and has been a staple in the Tour De France since its inception. And that’s the “easy” mountain in the race.

The longest stage is about 140 miles. Riding up a mountain is far more difficult due to the change in elevation and the decrease in breathable air. The cyclists ride their bikes through multiple countries at some point or another in the race.

This race is ludicrous by the standards of a normal human being. Most people may not be able to do this race over the course of two months, let alone three weeks. There is no way that the Tour De France would be able to get enough athletes to compete in this race without the aid of performance enhancing drugs.

But God forbid if anyone took performance enhancing drugs to even complete this daunting race. It is also unthinkable that football players who weigh as much as hogs and run as fast as gazelles can’t do either of those things naturally. And anyone who can hit a baseball traveling 90 plus miles per hour over 430 feet more than 30 times a year in seven months has to be juicing.

Yet everyone wants to know why we don’t talk about it more. How come Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless haven’t ripped each others’ heads off over this issue on First Take yet? How come nobody has the stones to stand up and say ‘I think these guys are all using PED’s?’

The easiest and perhaps most logical answer is that there is no course of action regarding PED’s that will end well.

You can’t legalize performance-enhancing drugs in professional sports because it could lead to a legalized drug race.

Teams with the highest payrolls across MLB, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL would start to pay doctors who prescribe drugs for boatloads of HGH, danazol, and toradol. If a team didn’t have as many doctors to prescribe these drugs in their back pockets, they would in theory lose out to teams that accepted doping.

The governing bodies of professional sports would look like hypocrites and be chastised publicly again and again ad nauseum. Picture Bud Selig legalizing the bane of his tenure as baseball’s commissioner. He’d be strung up by his baseballs and lit into for failing to protect the integrity of the game until the day he died.

Not to mention the players of every sport who used PED’s would try to sue their respective league after they retired. The narrative for the athletes here is simple: I didn’t know about the dangers of this particular drug I took for the better part of a decade, so I am going to sue you for money because I should be compensated for my ignorance.

Ergo, PED post retirement compensation will mirror the concussion mess the NFL is dealing with right now. But because these drugs were legal, the lawsuits would be in the hundreds of thousands as opposed to the thousands.

 

Okay so legalizing performance-enhancing drugs doesn’t work, yet trying to irradiate them from professional sports is neither practical nor possible.

The same way that kids will always try to find a way to get some form of high illegally professional athletes will try to utilize some method to gain a competitive advantage. Kobe Bryant can go to Germany to get his blood spun in some strange machine that nobody’s heard of  to completely rejuvenate his destroyed body, but Roger Clemens can’t get injected with testosterone, or HGH, or whatever he used. Both are performance-enhancing methods, yet Kobe’s was not deemed illegal because…

The method of determining which methods of performance enhancing drugs are legal and which ones aren’t has not been properly explained to everyone. To the casual viewer, what a guy can do to enhance his performance and what he can’t do remain unclear and vague.

Still even if these methods are determined rationally and everyone knows which drugs they can and cannot use to enhance performance, athletes are always going to find illegal methods to try and gain a competitive edge. Biological passports or not, somebody is going to find a way to beat the system.

Ultimately, that form of testing will be perceived as ineffective because it didn’t catch everybody. Therefore we are left with three options: either legalize the PED’s and initiate a legal drug race; spend millions of dollars and make earth-shattering rules that make PED’s illegal, only to wait until somebody beats the best form of testing for the upteempth time and a cheater who we find to be ‘great’ breaks the hearts of millions again; or maintain the status quo of PED profiling.

All of those options suck. Since there is no good answer to the PED question at this time, the easiest move is for sports fans to close their eyes, take deep breaths, and transport themselves to a place where athletes can do superhuman things on command.

 

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