There is a dangerous parasite that is on the verge of destroying several professional sports. That parasite is, of course, the rule that says players can't use performance enhancing drugs. The Tour de France is becoming a joke and the career home run record will have an asterisk next to it in many people's minds in the next few days. I, for one, wish that I could just watch a bike race, or a guy with an enormous head hit some homers, without having to worry about whether the drugs these athletes choose to do are banned in their sports. So here are my five reasons why performance enhancing drugs should be allowed in professional sports:
1) Performance Enhancing Drugs would level the playing field.
I know the idea that roids would level the playing field goes against conventional wisdom. But conventional wisdom is often very very stupid. If the playing field in sports were truly level, sports would be boring: every game would end in a tie. The biggest factor in causing an uneven playing field is talent. Do you know who won the first Tour de France? The guy with the most talent [Maurice Garin]. It wasn't the hardest worker or the grittiest competitor or the "smartest racer" or even the guy with the biggest balls. [Recent Tours have proven that one can dominate the race without a huge set of balls.] At the highest levels of athletics, the most important thing is Thor-given talent. At the highest level, everyone trains hard, plays tough and knows the game. Obviously hard work and sticktoitiveness are important, but talent will trump them all. So here's my question? What's so great about talent? If Athlete A (lets call him Lance) is really really talented, and Athlete B (lets call him Floyd) is slightly less talented, and both are willing to work extremely hard at their sport, is the playing field really level? Does the guy with more talent deserve to win more? You can't change how much talent you have. Unlike Athlete A, Athlete B could not win the Tour on talent alone. His parents screwed him in the talent department. If he wants to compete, he has to take the next step. I say we let him take that step.
2) Performance Enhancing Drugs enhance performance.
Nobody watched the XFL. One reason nobody watched it was that the XFL was totally gay. But another, more significant reason is that the best football players play in the NFL, not the XFL. And we'd rather watch the best players play. This is the same reason that Major League Baseball has more viewers than minor league baseball, and the NBA has more viewers than the WNBA. People want to watch the best.
[Before any of youse get all bent out of shape because I acknowledged that the NBA has better basketball players in it than the WNBA, I will readily admit that the birds that play in the WNBA have good fundamentals and are talented and they could all dominate me. But I'm not a professional basketball player, and ain't a one of them could play in the NBA. If one of them could, we'd watch her because she was the best, not because she was the best chick.]
Steroids make athletes better. Period. Remember that Mark McGuire/Sammy Sosa race to break the single season home run record back in 1998? How awesome was that? How awesome would this year be if we stopped giving a shit about roids, and Barry Bonds wasn't such a douchebottle? Watching great players do great things is what sports are all about.
3) Drawing a distinction between Performance Enhancing Drugs and other new technology is totally capricious.
Lance Armstrong's first book is called It's Not About the Bike. But the fact of the matter is, to some degree, it is about the bike Lance. Lance's team had the best equipment, and it showed. The gap is narrowing, but for a while, Trek and the US Postal team did far more testing and engineering and custom tailoring their bikes for their riders. But so what? Technology improves, and in a sport like cycling, that makes for faster racing. And don't even get me started on the clap skate.
Also, remember Kirk Gibson's famous game-winning homer in the 1988 world series? Could he have even stepped to the plate without a cortisone shot? My guess is no. Athletes use all sorts of "performance enhancing drugs" to play when they're injured.
The truth is that Babe Ruth didn't have access to cortisone shots, and Philippe Thys only had like three gears when he won the Tour de France. All sorts of technology has made comparing today's athletes to their predecessors rather difficult. None of today's athletes "play clean" by 1920s standards. But I say that Kirk's homer is one of the best plays in baseball history. And Lance's dominance in the tour made it exciting to a whole country. The technology that allowed them to accomplish their feats made their sports better.
4) A viable, legal market for Performance Enhancing Drugs would lead to the development of better and safer drugs.
Do you know who wins the modern Tour de France? It's still not the guy that works the hardest. It's not the guy with the most talent either. It's not even the guy with the best drugs really. It's the guy with the least detectable drugs. The guys that develop these drugs have to work largely underground. A major goal is to make said drugs undetectable. But if PEDs were legal, the big drug companies would jump headfirst into that game and try to make better drugs. Along the way, they'd make them safer. Sooner or later, we could all benefit from this stuff. If our children can all bench press 400 lbs, would it not be a better world?
5) We could enjoy the games we love without having to scrutinize the athletes that play them.
This should be a very exciting time in sports. These guys are out there getting paid big bucks to entertain us. They found a way to make their craft more entertaining. The only people it could possibly hurt are the athletes themselves, and they're the ones choosing to take that risk. Shouldn't they be free to do so? [This isn't Russia, is this Russia?] Shouldn't we be able to cheer them on without wondering what they're on? With respect to the Tour de France, legalizing PEDs are its only hope. Baseball isn't too far from that. Who knows what sport is next. Do we really want of romanticized visions of the past to ruin the sports we love?
Hoo-ray for Roids!