“Do you want to know the terrifying truth?” he asked. “Or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?”
“Dingers!” the crowd roars.
That’s us. We want outfielders to hold up through 162 games. Quarterbacks to return quickly from injury. Young pitchers to improve. Linebackers to play on that painful ankle. Faster. Higher. Stronger.
Just don’t admit the cost.
Where is the line between what truly enhances performance and what truly hurts health? Unlimited supplies of Red Bull and 5 Hour Energy fill big-league clubhouses. Greenies, slang for amphetamines, were as much a part of baseball’s culture as a chaw of tobacco tucked in your mouth until they were banned in 2006. Cortisone shots helped pull the the Washington Nationals through 2012. Epidurals and Toradol injections are among the painkillers that keep banged-up NFL players on the field. An alphabet soup of nutritional supplements can be found in most any professional athlete’s locker.
The consequences aren’t much of a deterrent. Major League Baseball’s policy, perhaps the most enlightened of the four major U.S. sports, hits first-time offenders with a 50-game suspension without pay. Progress? Sure. But hardly an impediment to someone like Melky Cabrera. Before testing positive for PEDs in August, Cabrera won the All-Star Game’s MVP award and hit .346.
The punishment? Cabrera missed the San Francisco Giants’ World Series title but rebounded to sign a two-year, $16 million free-agent deal with the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, the suspension cut into his future earnings. He still landed the best contract of his career.
The reward for swallowing or shooting or smearing the latest concoction is too great. The downside isn’t much of one. Try a yearlong suspension for the first offense, lifetime ban for the second. That’d slow the predictable cycle, at least give pause before letting your name appear in “Dr.” Bosch’s infamous notebook.
Or maybe that’s just the velvet deer antler talking. Anybody know how to wash this stuff off a keyboard?
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By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
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