Saturday, August 18, 2007

Steroids, creating a level playing field

There has been a lot of conversation recently about Barry Bonds and the home run records he has broken, as well as the Home Run chase of 1998. Everyone saying how they are all cheating, and that they all have to have an asterisk put by their records. Recently, there have been books released defending the actions of Floyd Landis, the bicycle racer. There are growing arguments about these and other athletes about how using enhancing drugs to build muscle, to achieve greater records, to get better contracts, whether or not their accomplishments should even be recorded if they have been convicted of using them. Well, I want to play devil's advocate here, because there are many points where steroids, et al..., could be considered justifiable....

The rules for using technology in different sports (the latest, the greatest) differ widely, and mostly because of financial reasons. In NASCAR, if a team doesn't have the money to invest in their cars as the more widely known teams, then those new innovations in the cars would be a distinct advantage for those with more money. To level the playing field, NASCAR inspects and fines those drivers whose mechanics have used parts that are not sanctioned by the sport. However, new and improved golf clubs or balls are frequently used, making longer shots attainable. So why does Jeff Gordon get fined, but Tiger Woods does not?

It is therefore reasonable to assume that new technology in the fields of human development, such as vitamins, hormones, steroids, drugs...etc... should either be allowed, or not. It becomes clear from the above argument that the leveling of the playing field is caused not because of cheating concerns or because of a concern for the health of the players, but rather because not everyone can afford to take pills to make more muscle mass. In a true consumerist society, there would not be a concern for the health of players, and indeed, there are some who feel this way. It would be better, and far more profitable for the athlete in question to take steroids, be wildly successful, and be paid muchas dollars, and then worry about the effects of steroids later. It is reasonable to assume that health technology will continue to develop drugs that will change the mass and density of muscles, creating more superhuman athletes than the natural born athletes of years past. It is also reasonable to assume that steroids will be created that have less negative effects on the human body. What then if the drugs have no discernible negative side effects?

We have already reached the time when all records broken are done with the help of some aid, technology, or development that people like Jim Thorpe did not have in the early 20th century. And so the records should probably stand side by side, as those of the natural era, and those of the technological era are achieved so much differently. Not an asterisk, but rather two different records.

And there will be further records broken, and achievements made with the creation of artificially enhanced human organs... eyes, or arms, or regulatory systems that will make tiring at the end of the game a thing of the past. Science fiction has already seen this played out in novels, and it is safe to assume, much like cell phones, the internet, and other incredible advances, that one day, those bionic additions to the human body will be accessible to those people, like athletes, to afford them. How then will we regulate them, and when records are broken with the keen perception of an eye that is not human, will those records have to have asterisks as well, or will they be totally new records?

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