From the Houston Chronicle (and from earlier the Los Angeles Times) comes this guest editorial by Kate Schmidt, the greatest female javelin athlete in USA track & field history. Approaching this essay with a moral analysis we simply shudder at the decaying sense of ethics and morals and logic behind this opinion (we apologize if this piece is a parody).
'Just say yes to steroids' writes Schmidt. Why stop there? Just say yes to:
- Corruption in government
- Cheating on income taxes
- Illicit drug abuse of all nature, including meth
- In fact, just say yes to lying, cheating, subterfuge, and dishonesty in all areas of life -- business, medicine, journalism, sport...
Addressing this issue (briefly) with a moral argument we ask 'why does the inability of regulatory agencies and the predisposition of some athletes to cheat and deceive, constitute a moral call to legalize corruption'? Is utter revenue-seeking, ends-justify-means methods, and whatever-it-takes-to-win scheming the paradigm for moral guidelines in the 2000s?
Ms. Schmidt writes:
Much of the criticism of Jones and others caught using steroids is unfair. There is a disconnect between what the sports-viewing public knows and expects and what is actually going on. Fans have created such high expectations for athletes that success seems to require steroid use for any sport requiring speed, power or a combination of the two. The genie is out of the bottle — for good.
Marion Jones, who systematically cheated the Olympics, her competitors, and her fans, then lied about her cheating, cannot be blamed for moral corruption? In fact (now distracting the reader from personal responsibility), those track fans are the root cause of Jones' individual drug-cheating and cover-up over these 8 long years. Jones' personal choices in morals, in fair play, in behaving ethically to her family, to her fans, and to her competitors is legitimized by the awful pressures place upon her by the public: just win baby. Machiavelli would be proud of this stance.
Argument #2 is that fans love artificially-flavored long home runs, increasingly fast 'roided 100M sprints, and juiced bone-crushing, career ending football hits. These artificial feats bring in money, and isn't the acquisition of revenue the ultimate goal of sport and life?
Do we really think it's in the best interests of the National Football League, Major League Baseball or USA Track and Field to punish athletes — their cash cows — who test positive for steroids?
But follow the logic of those who would cleanse sports of drugs. In most sports, it is my belief that performance-enhancing drug use is the rule, not the exception. What would be the effects of reversing this trend? For instance, take synthetic testosterone and its derivatives out of baseball and football. What would happen?
There would be far fewer home runs; smaller, slower, less muscular athletes and no new records for the next few decades until human development and equipment technology compensated for the absence of these drugs. There also would be fewer fans, reduced ticket sales, less ad revenue, less lucrative TV contracts and smaller stadiums built. The beneficiaries of performance-enhancing drug use exist at every level of the sports industry.
Beneficiaries of PED-cheats include the drug dealers who purchased PEDs from China, the fans who watch the chemically-enhanced performances, the coaches who win tainted championships, and the business owners who make tons of money promoting illegally obtained records and championships.
Did the athletes who didn't cheat, and who lost the race/game/championship benefit? Did the athletes who doped, then suffered tendon injuries, cardiac problems, and sudden death benefit? Did the children of the teenage female athletes of the GDR who now show developmental abnormalities including club foot benefit? Did the partners of the juiced athletes who were assaulted or killed by those aggressive athletes (or performers) benefit? We appear to have a large collective denial of science and history to ignore those non-beneficiaries.
Could we legalize doping? If we find the correct euphemism we could:
On the other hand, what if we decriminalized and destigmatized performance-enhancing drugs — indeed, called them "training supplements" ?
We could call income-tax cheating 'differences of economic perception'; governmental bribery 'enhanced lobbying'; and date rape with ecstasy 'enhancing the partner's relaxation'. We could call those activities any euphemism we wish, but they still amount to 'tax evasion', 'corruption', and 'rape'; euphemism does not change the facts of the matter.
Schmidt argues that athletes are inherently corrupt. Rules be damned, the pursuit of winning demands cheating, and cheating is simply the athlete's genetic response to a capitalistic mandate:
Athletes always will be a step ahead of the testing labs in concealing substances because of the multibillion-dollar industries that have been built on their sweat and their obsession. They will seek out the next great "thing" — a vitamin, a nutritional supplement, a training technique, a piece of training equipment, a new shoe, a drug. Athletes have used performance enhancements and supplements for centuries. We cannot change the nature
of the beast.
Schmidt sees an inherent moral corruption that lies in the hearts and souls of all human beings. This should lead to a spirited debate among devotees of Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Hume, and others. Although we are not experts on moral philosophy, the argument here would be that this new 'moral guidance' in doping is simply an acquiescence to the corrupt, the cheats, and those who would defy the established rules...then lie about it.
Schmidt engages in perhaps the most unwise argument yet: Let the youth dope:
But what do we say to our kids who ask, "Is this what I have to do to excel?"
Well, let's start with a resounding "yes!"
This 'Resounding yes' to excel at sport means young athletes need to engage in unsavory systematic PED programs like the East German doping machine. To win gold medals, boys and girls, you should take dangerous drugs that stunt your growth, maim your genitalia, enhance your aggressiveness, and cause birth defects in your children 30 years hence. (Really this essay is a parody...right?)
Shudder. Pragmatically, do readers want the surgeon who demonstrated the best academics, and the best surgical skill, or the surgeon who cheated his way through medical school and lied his way past his boards to transplant their new liver?
Existentialists would argue that humans are neither morally good or evil, but that the environment provided by family, teachers, leaders, coaches and peers etc. shapes the human moral development. If sport legitimizes corruption, we can see where moral development seems to be heading: bigger, stronger, faster, and better at cheating and more adept at corruption.