Friday, September 14, 2007

Steroids, part II

Steroid use distinguishes itself from other forms of cheating in baseball, in that it has attracted significantly more attention from both the public and the baseball establishment; as far as I know there has never been a senate committee to investigate ball tampering. It can be argued, of course, that steroid use is more widespread and has had a more significant effect than other forms of cheating—this is clearly supported by the surge in power numbers that began in the late ‘90s and tapered off in the wake of testing. However, part of the reason that steroid use is so widely condemned and has attracted so much interest has to be because people consider tampering with a baseball and tampering with a human body to be infringements of a different order.

The human body was created in god’s image, and to modify it or alter it, to attempt to improve on the divine design, is a significant act of hubris. This same line of thinking is responsible for much of the historical prejudice against medicine, and while few people formulate their thoughts in exactly that way, it is a recognizable component in the reaction against steroids. It is interesting to point out that different alterations on player’s ‘god given’ bodies have almost certainly had a more pervasive effect on the sport than performance enhancing drugs. If the ‘pure’ game of baseball is played by players whose bodies have been completely unmodified, than Tommy John did far more to contaminate the integrity of the sport than Barry Bonds ever could. It is good that Pedro has already put together a Hall of Fame career, because if the medical science were even five years behind what it is now, his career would probably be over; Babe Ruth might have been half a dozen cortisone shots away from eight hundred home runs.

Of course, medical advancements theoretically only restore what had previously existed, at best returning a player to a previous condition, whereas steroids are supposed to improve upon what was already there. Still, if one accepts the premise that players were only meant to be so strong, it is hard to argue that certain players weren’t meant to succumb to career ending injuries.

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