Ever since the feds raided BALCO and we all learned that Barry Bonds was a cheater, there has been an ongoing debate over PEDs (performance enhancing drugs) in sports.
For the most part, the entire country has come to the following consensus: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jose Canseco, and everyone who has either tested positive for or been caught up in any of the multiple government or independent investigations on PEDs are all cheaters.
They shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame.
Their records should be abolished.
They are the evilest of evil, the scummiest of scum, the ugliest of the ugly.
They cheated to gain an advantage and should be punished for it.
The part of me that wants to eliminate all cheating from sports, both pro and amateur, agrees with this. I want PEDs out of baseball, football, hockey, basketball, bowling, golf, NASCAR—hell, I even want it out of gymnastics, swimming, and curling.
The realistic part of me knows that the scientists who are making the PEDs will always be a step ahead of the scientists who are testing them. After all, who do you think made more money? The guy who invented the Cream and the Clear, or the guy who helped the government figure out how to test for it?
Given that, is it really fair to tarnish Barry Bonds for doing something we’re pretty sure a large percentage of the pitchers he was facing was also doing?
OK, maybe that statement isn’t fair. Maybe it wasn’t a large percentage. Maybe none of them were using. But, we don’t know. We can’t know.
I understand that there are tests that detect most types of steroids. It’s a no-brainer to include all of these types of PEDs on banned substance lists and to punish those who test positive for them. You can be relatively certain (as long as you’re testing often enough) that only the players who test positive are using them, so it’s perfectly fair to punish those who are caught.
But what about the PEDs you can’t test for?
Take HGH, for example.
Today, there is no test for HGH. The only way an athlete gets caught doing HGH is if the government happens to arrest the guy who sold it to him. Even if they catch your "doctor," they can’t prove you did HGH beyond any reasonable doubt unless you admit to it.
So, is it really fair to punish anyone for doing HGH when, for all you know, everyone is doing it? Is it really fair to punish players for taking a substance when you’ll never have a failed test to prove they took it? Is it really fair to punish only the players who can’t afford the "good stuff" that can’t be detected by the tests done by the MLB, the NFL, the NBA, or the NHL?
Isn’t the only fair way to deal with PEDs to take them off the banned substance list until or unless you can test for them?
Rodney Harrison was punished for taking HGH, even though he never failed a test. He was punished because his name came up in an investigation and he was later forced to admit to the NFL that he took the banned substance. Had his name not come up, he’d probably still be taking HGH today.
How many other athlete’s names haven’t come up? How many other athletes are still taking HGH today?
We don’t know. We can’t know. There is no test.
It could be everybody. It could be nobody.
The only fair thing to do is to take any substance you can’t test for off the banned substance list. You can’t police what you can’t catch.
And really, who’s going to care? The fans want to see bone-crunching hits, home-runs, power-dunks, and hat-tricks. We pretend we care, but we don’t. The only people you’re going to piss off by doing this are those in Congress.
And let’s be honest, if Congress were really serious about cleaning up sports, they’d make the laws against using these substances more stringent. We all know they’re not serious—they just like seeing their faces on ESPN. But if they were, that’s what they’d do.
If you catch someone using HGH, steroids, etc. illegally, throw them in jail. If an athlete is taking something illegal that can’t be tested for, the only way you’re catching him is if he’s involved in a criminal investigation anyway. Until someone develops a test, let the law deal with them.
You can’t hit home-runs from jail.
Anyway, the reason this argument keeps coming up is because Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will both be due for a Hall of Fame vote in five years (unless they come back to play again, which I don’t see happening). After much deliberation, I’ve come to the conclusion that I firmly believe both should be in the Hall of Fame.
They were the best of their generation. Yes, they both probably used PEDs. But then, as far as you know, so did everyone they played against.
I’ve heard some people ask how many home-runs Bonds would have had if he hadn’t used PEDs. Couldn’t you also ask how many home-runs he would have had if the opposing pitcher wasn’t using them as well? Or how many home-runs did Clemens give up because the opposing batter was using PEDs?
It all evens out, probably. Or maybe not. But we don’t know.
So, to sum this up: PEDs are cheating, players who use are scum and should be treated as such, but PEDs shouldn’t be banned if we can’t test for them.
And Barry and Roger should both be first ballot Hall-of-Famers, unless you have a way of proving to me that everyone else in baseball wasn’t using PEDs as well.
And, as always, Congress sucks.
Sean Crowe is a Senior Writer and an NFL Community Leader at Bleacher Report. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His archive can be found here. You can find everything he writes, including articles for other publications, here.