Someone’s bound to chalk it up to steroids…

According to this article at ESPN [tag]Washington University[/tag] psychology researchers recently put [tag]Albert Pujols[/tag] through a battery of tests once given to [tag]Babe Ruth[/tag] 85 years ago to measure his reflexes, eyesight and a bunch of other things.  The original tests were designed to try to determine why the Bambino was so great at baseball and concluded that he had a wide range of abilities that were far superior to most people.

The results of the test on Pujols show that he, like the Babe, is no mere mortal.  What no one is talking about (yet) is that these tests also show that what counts for a baseball player isn’t brawn, but a very finely tuned neurological system that helps him see the ball, keep track of the action on the field, read the spin of a ball and react with a coordinated response.  Sure, it doesn’t hurt if you’re as strong as an ox, but if you don’t have such a fine-tuned neurological system being The Hulk isn’t going to help you much.

The more I think about it the less I care about [tag]performance enhancing drugs[/tag].  I don’t care if [tag]Floyd Landis[/tag] was using artificial testosterone to help him recover from long rides faster, I don’t care if [tag]Barry Bonds[/tag] crammed the clean, the clear and the kitchen sink up his ass and I don’t care if [tag]Marion Jones[/tag] gobbles [tag]HGH[/tag] by the bucketful.  I don’t care because it really doesn’t matter.  Being a great athlete has so much more to do with the composition of your mind than it does the composition of your muscle fibers that it really doesn’t matter how artificially bulked any of these folks are.

That’s one reason.  The other is that it’s beyond stupid and naive for any sport, whether it’s cycling, track and field, baseball or curling to think that any one competitor has managed to develop some sort of scientific edge over anyone else.  For two years sports writers (note: I didn’t say the public because the fans don’t give two shits about this, only the balding, pot-bellied whiners who write about sports for a living and a bunch of grandstanding jackasses in Washington actually think this is important) have been bitching about how unfair baseball is in the steroid era.  That is they were bitching about that when their argument was that hitters on performance enhancing drugs where outmatching the poor defenseless pitchers.  *bzzzzzzzt* WRONG.  Then the Jason Grimsley story broke and it became obvious, even to a dimwitted sportswriter, that pitchers were just as juiced, if not more, than the hitters.  And what does that make, friends?  A level playing field.

Likewise, anyone who thinks that Floyd Landis was the only cyclist in the Tour de France using performance enhancing drugs is, well, a nitwit.  If it were otherwise then Floyd would have left the peloton in the dust, which he did not.  In fact the second-place finisher in the Tour was only a minute behind after the final time trial.  A little application of logic and you have to come to the conclusion that if not every cyclist in the Tour all but a few is using some form of performance enhancing drugs to allow their bodies to recover more effectively between stages.

My hunch is that all of this wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth about athletic drug use is really just the same nitwittery that fuels the battle against recreational drugs.  In spite of the fact that we westerners love our drugs (just look at the fortunes being made by the makers of everything from aspirin to zoloft and you know that western culture is pretty much running on drugs) our professional pontificators and puffed up politicians are on and have been on an anti-drug crusade for the past 50 years or more.  And the story is always the same – we’ve got to stop these drugs to protect our children.  Won’t someone please think of the children.

Ok, here’s my thoughts on the children – they’re going to do what they want regardless of what we say.  In fact, the more restrictive we are and the more forbidden the drug the more attractive it is to kids who are trying to define their identities as separate from their parents, teachers, coaches and other elders.  Instead of shaking our fingers at kids and telling them “drugs are bad” whether we’re talking about pot or HGH just give them the facts and let them make up their own minds.  Sure, give them your opinion but don’t turn drugs into a shortcut for defining themselves as individuals by demonizing them.

As for adults – so long as they’re not driving a car, flying a plane or operating a crane lift under the influence then let ’em alone.  Likewise for athletes.  Unless you want to tell me that you don’t find feats of strength exciting let them gobble all the roids they can handle.  And once again, make sure this stuff is out in the open so that athletes can make educated and intelligent decisions about whether or not they want to deal with the consequences of using steroids, HGH or whatnot now on their future lives.

At the very least the sportswriters of America need to find something more interesting to write about.  And in the interest of them knocking off this business about being so excited about tearing athletes down I think there ought to be a physical fitness standard for sports hacks.  Maybe that would weed out the bitter old jerks who quite openly hate the sports and the athletes they write about.

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