Enough About Your Urine Already

The latest baseball star-turned-culprit: Ryan Braun, the Milwaukee Brewers slugger and winner of the National League’s Most Valuable Player award in 2011. Baseball announced Monday that he had been suspended for the remainder of the season…

via Doping Tarnishes Baseball Again as Brewers’ Braun Is Suspended – NYTimes.com.

Mr. Braun accepted his punishment without reservation; some people would call that taking it “like a man.” Certainly, men have a long record of cheating in all endeavors, so I have no quibble with that. What was galling about Mr. Braun’s reaction was that he totally skated around the question of whether he was, in fact, cheating last year when he dodged a similar suspension. That is taking it “like a coward.”

“I am not perfect,” he clucked. Of course, we knew that: Mr. Braun, who was the M.V.P. in 2011, has only nine homers this season.

The question now is not, How many more players? Though, to be sure, there will be more. Baseball is said to have 20 names on knows-they’ve-been-naughty list, mostly stemming from the investigation of a so-called anti-aging clinic in Florida. The questions now is, How many more clinics are there? How many more doctors are peddling a brand of sports medicine that for whatever reason doesn’t measure up?

And how do you tell when your strange, unnatural therapy of blended protein drinks, injections and swabbings cross the line?

Better to test sparingly, and expose from time to time what is apparently the odd bad apple, rather than do the job thoroughly and find the whole barrel is spoiled and your sport has suddenly vanished in a hailstorm of disqualifications.

via Doping in sport: Athlete’s dilemma | The Economist.

Even more galling than Mr. Braun Bill-Clinton-esque response was the innocent reaction of so-called baseball guys.

“For these guys still to be involved with this stuff just baffles me,” Mike Redmond, the Miami Marlins manager, said.

Surely, he is the only one baffled by Mr. Braun’s decision-making. If cheating has benefits (fame and money), cheating will happen.

“Baseball’s done a great job of cleaning up the game,” Mr. Redmond added, apparently without irony.

Except that players still break the rules, and when they do most of the details remain a secret. Baseball’s drug policy spells it out; players don’t have to admit to anything. That is not doing a great job of cleaning anything. Who turns the lights off before they mop?

It’s silly, and Mr. Redmond seemed to know it, even if he claimed not to.

“We’ll go through a lull and then, bam,” he said, “here comes another guy that gets suspended.”

What baseball needs is something sensible. A drug policy that does not need to be updated every time a better centrifuge is built. A correspondent to The Economist (see above) proposed regularly testing all players. And regularly publishing all the results. (I pictured uniform numbers being changed to match test results.)

Leave it to a Brit to suggest something fussy like that. I say, liberalize the whole thing. Allow players to consult any doctor, and indulge in any therapy — no matter how long it was steeped in horse testicles. Let them do whatever they want, and then we can read about how they sprouted a tail (and went broke) when they were 50. Let’s have a baseball season pass in spectacular, outfield-wall-smashing fashion without having to think about anyone’s urine test.

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