By Jacob Sullum
Writing in The New York Times, Zev Chafets, author of a forthcoming book on the Baseball Hall of Fame, argues that players should not be barred from it based on their use of performance-enhancing substances:
Since the dawn of baseball, players have used whatever substances they believed would help them perform better, heal faster or relax during a long and stressful season....
For decades, baseball beat writers—the Hall of Fame's designated electoral college—shielded the players from scrutiny. When the Internet (and exposés by two former ballplayers, Jim Bouton and Jose Canseco) allowed fans to see what was really happening, the baseball writers were revealed as dupes or stooges. In a rage, they formed a posse to drive the drug users out of the game.
But today's superstars have lawyers and a union. They know how to use the news media. And they have plenty of money. The only way to punish them is to deny them a place in Cooperstown. The punishment has already been visited on Mark McGwire, and many more are on deck.
Chafets argues that the Hall of Fame should recognize the pervasiveness of performance enhancement, "replac[ing] mythology and spin with realism and honesty." He also suggests that rules barring the use of certain arbitrarily selected enhancement techniques should be scrapped. "If everyone has access to the same drugs and training methods, and the fans are told what these are," he writes, "then the field is level and fans will be able to interpret what they are seeing on the diamond and in the box scores."
I tend to agree. So do Matt Welch, Nick Gillespie, and Radley Balko (all of whom have much stronger credentials as sports fans than I do). More Reason coverage of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball and other sports here.
By Jacob Sullum