When To Legalize PED’s And Medical Marijuana In The NFL

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Seems like we can’t go too long without a debate on the use of PED’s and medical marijuana in the NFL (and other sports). They’re not quite the same but, forgive the pun, I want to tackle them both. First up, PED’s. I’ve always been firmly against the use of performance enhancers for the following reasons:

  1. When used to get a competitive advantage.
  2. They can be dangerous if abused and taken over an extended period of time.
  3. When some players use it, it puts pressure on other players to make the same choice to keep up.
  4. It’s against the law and or is cheating.
  5. Bad example and dangerous for kids and teenagers.

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None of that has changed. However, Peyton Manning’s recent “exoneration” from an alleged HGH allegation got me thinking. Let’s pretend for a second he did use HGH. If a guy has four neck surgeries and missed an entire season, and uses some HGH to help heal and recover and get back to his previous established performance level, do we really want to compare that to the ongoing use of a healthy player using it to improve performance beyond his established level?

With or without medical advice there are a LOT of drugs that have side effects and are bad for you. In fact, according to Harvard University center for ethics, prescription drugs are the fourth leading cause of death in America.

If a player has a season ending and or career threatening injury I am okay with him taking PED’s for a limited time, and under a league approved doctor’s supervision. In this limited circumstance:

  1. I do not see the player as getting a competitive advantage.
  2. It would not put undue pressure on other players to use when healthy.
  3. In this use, it wouldn’t be cheating if it was league approved.
  4. And it would be not a bad example to kids for the above reasons.

Marijuana is a little more complicated. I hear the NFL receiving criticism from many analysts on ESPN stating:

  1. Medical marijuana is legal.
  2. It is a hypocrisy for the league to test for marijuana given they make money from alcohol.
  3. It is not a performance enhancer.
  4. Football is such a violent sport, players need it for pain relief.

These arguments are not without merit. For instance, in 2013, what would you guess had more deaths related to it? Marijuana or alcohol? The answer is alcohol. Maybe that is not a surprise after all alcohol is legal. But what if I told you that the number of deaths due to alcohol in 2013 was 18,361 and for marijuana it was only 2,123? That’s a big difference right? Well guess what? I made those numbers up.  They’re worse. Deaths due to alcohol was 29,001 and for marijuana was, wait for it… zero! You can see the chart I pulled this from, here.

However I cannot fault the NFL or any league for keeping marijuana against it’s rules. First of all, until medical marijuana is legal in all states and survives initial appeals of such legality, I do not think the league should legalize it. But let’s assume that day comes.

If an NFL player wants to take marijuana for pain relief, or other approved medicinal use, I think he should be able to appeal for a waiver allowing him to take it in tablet form.

A medicinal reason to take marijuana should not be an excuse to “toke up” or chow down on brownies. Smoking and eating marijuana is associated with its recreational use and this is not what the waiver is providing for.

In order for this waiver to be approved, a league or team approved Dr. would have to:

  • Explain what other pain relievers have been tried and why the marijuana is needed.
  • The Dr. would have to inform the league of the dosage and length of time the player would need to use.
  • The player would need to submit to additional testing to measure the amount of marijuana in his system to ensure he is sticking to the prescribed dose and not abusing it.

Again, medicinal approval should not be a gateway to recreational use.

Yes, the league is hypocritical by looking the other way and profiting from alcohol. However, in this sense they are following the hypocritical lead of the country since the failure of prohibition, but to suggest that because they don’t do anything to prevent the use and abuse of one drug, alcohol, they should not for another is an argument I would expect from a rebellious teenager.

The league’s intention of keeping it illegal, is to protect their assets from themselves. Just like there are clauses in contracts to keep athletes from engaging in activities that increase the odds of injury, like skydiving or other sports.  

There is nothing wrong with this.  Owners invest a lot of money in players and it is not unreasonable for them to take measures to keep them from becoming addicted to a recreational drug that is addictive and can be a DPD, decrease performance drug, and a negative locker room influence.  

An irony here is that the NFL has been very rightly criticized for its handling of the concussion issue, but here they are getting criticized for not letting its players use an addictive drug?

I can just imagine if it was the opposite and the league had a lax policy for marijuana use.  They would be getting criticized for allowing players to do it, or looking the other way, so players can deal with pain and can get on the field and play through it. And with righteous anger they would state now you have these retired players who are addicted and have health problems and what is the league going to do about that?!

Max

ESPN’s First Take Co-Host Max Kellerman thinks the NFL is wrong on Marijuana Testing.

Talking heads love to talk and love to criticize.

So to surmise. Yes on PED’s to assist with recovery from season ending or career threatening injuries only. (I am open to its use for other severe injuries so long as the procedure is serious and legit and not used as a gateway/loophole for rampant use)

Yes to marijuana, if and when it becomes legal in all states where the NFL or a particular league plays, and with stipulations to help ensure it gets used for it’s intended purpose.

Should Steroid Users in Baseball Be Eligible for the Hall of Fame?

The Case for and Against

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on April 21st, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

To some people it’s simple. Performance enhancing drug users cheated and that should automatically disqualify them for the Hall of Fame (HOF).

If a law student is taking the bar exam and answers 95% correctly on his own but gets caught cheating on one question, they don’t say well he passed without the question he cheated on so we will pass him anyway. I get that. However I don’t think it is this simple.

Conversely, one could argue that the era was corrupt and it is unfair that the players are getting all of the blame when the union and management are getting off the hook. And how do you figure out who used versus who didn’t? Further, how do you factor in those who got caught while others you just have suspicions? No. The issue isn’t that complicated either.

At one time or another many people speed when they drive. Some people get tickets, some don’t. That’s life. We can’t let everybody off the hook because some people don’t get caught. You know what you’re doing when you put your foot on the accelerator. You roll the dice, you break the law or commit a violation, that is what it is.

I reduce the debate to two questions: Is the HOF an honor for a player? Or is it a historical museum of record? If I was a voter and I believed the former I would vote against anyone getting into the HOF that I believed beyond a preponderance of the evidence used steroids or any PED.

If I was a voter and believed the latter than I would consider PED use on a case-by-case basis.

My thinking is the HOF is both an honor for the player and a historical museum of record. Therefore if I were Commissioner for a day there would be two ways to get into the HOF: One with honors and the other without.

You can’t tell the story of baseball without telling the story of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Pete Rose (I know, gambling issue for Rose). You don’t give them the jacket, you don’t give them the ceremony and their PED use is as prominent on their plague as their statistics. They have to wait ten years instead of five and they’re in the “offenders” wing of the hall.

In America, we do not pretend dark moments in our history do not exist. On the contrary, we go out of our way to remind ourselves of them so that we might learn and avoid repeating mistakes.

Having said that I feel the need to remind myself we are talking about baseball and not world affairs. That baseball players who use PED’s are treated far worse than other athletes of major sports, and the relevant condemnation probably lies somewhere in between.

I think the media gins up the issue to a degree because their love affair with numbers and statistics is greater in baseball than any other sport. However, another key factor was MLB and the union putting off testing as long as it did. They could have diffused their own time bomb if they dealt with it much sooner. But I digress.

As for eligibility and considering players on a case-by-case basis, my standard would be higher for PED users. A player would have to meet that subjective threshold of “were they a HOFer before or in the years when they were deemed clean?” Bonds, and Clemens meet that standard so I would vote them in without honors. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and given his three-time link, Manny Ramirez do not.

For example, McGwire’s HOF case is built around one thing, home runs. Take away the steroids and he is somewhere between Steve Balboni or Dave Kingman and a true HOFer.

If I was a manager and I had to choose a first baseman for my team and my choice was Mark McGwire without steroids or Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Will Clark, Mark grace, or Keith Hernandez, I would take any of those other players. None of which have gotten a whiff of the hall. Some of which had injuries and perhaps could have extended their careers and numbers if they gave in to the dark side.

Mattingly for example, was an MVP, a batting champ, nine time gold glover, and voted best player in the game by his peers over a two-year period (according to a New York Times poll of 417 players in 1986). But he had back issues zap him of his power, which caused an early retirement the year before the New York Yankees began a run of winning four World Series in five years. With steroids he could have possibly played through that run, been the first Yankee to reach three thousand hits, had a lot more home runs and won all of those rings before retiring. But he did the right thing, or I should say didn’t do the wrong thing. I just can’t see putting McGwire in before Donnie Baseball or the other first basemen mentioned above.

You can document the home run chase in the summer of 1998 and other such accomplishments in the hall while creating a teaching moment for young visitors by explaining why McGwire or Sosa are not in.

What about an asterisk? Any record accomplished by any player who has admitted or been found guilty in a court of law of PED use should have an asterisk.

One positive about the steroid era for me is that I have a greater appreciation for the career and single season home run leaders, Hank Aaron and Roger Maris, respectively, who accomplished their records cleanly.

My closing thoughts on the issue are, not surprisingly, the cover up is worse than the crime. Jason Giambi worked his way through this much smoother than guys like Bonds, Clemens and McGwire by completely cooperating with the grand jury and offering a mea culpa to the media.

In defense of the players, it is not out of the realm of believability that some players used because they believed they had to use or they would be at a disadvantage because of those that were.

Imagine stock brokers operating without an SEC, do you think more laws would be broken under those conditions? One might think they have to cheat under such circumstances to keep a job or to excel to the next level.

In essence, players were unregulated with a don’t ask don’t tell policy by those who should have been enforcing a drug policy who chose instead to look the other way and profit as well.

It is for that reason that I think we remove the scarlet letter placed on anyone’s chest from this era. Hold them accountable, collectively learn from it, acknowledge the past, and move on.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

The One Problem The A-Rod and Biogenesis 13 Ban Doesn’t Solve

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In the absence of seeing the evidence, it does seem like Alex Rodriguez is getting what he deserves.  Same can be said for the rest of the Biogenesis 13.  Commissioner Bud Selig is receiving much kudos for nailing A-Rod and for cleaning up baseball. However, one major hole in all of this is that these players were not busted by drug tests (previously, Ryan Braun was but it got overturned on a technicality).  They were caught by an investigation of a fraudulent clinic, text messages and emails and a rat looking to save his own hide.

One of the reasons, or the main reason we are given as to the length of Rodriguez’s suspension is that he repeatedly used PED’s over three years.  So he used PED’s for three years and didn’t fail one drug test?  What does that say about the efficiency of the major league baseball-testing program?

As fans, are we to believe that only the Biogenesis 13 have been the only recent cheats?  Apparently the cheaters are way ahead of the testing once again.

After an initial lowering of numbers when testing was first implemented, there has been some interesting increase in productivity in certain players again.  It’s as if they now feel comfortable with the testing that is in place and that they know how to get around it.  At least the risk of the 50 game first time suspension is worth the reward of getting a bigger contract… or in the case of an older or fringe player, any contract at all.

I won’t suggest anyone in particular, because I don’t have a morsel of evidence to do so.  But when you look at baseball’s history and the fact that the Biogenesis 13 were not suspended for failing any tests you have wonder, who else is doing it?

No, the chapter, ending with A-Rod doesn’t shut the door on steroids/ PED use in baseball, it keeps it wide open.

Please Stop Making Me Defend A-Rod

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Look if Alex Rodriguez is guilty of all that is alleged against him that I cover in my previous blog, here, than I am all for the 211 game suspension and if possible, him never donning New York Yankee pinstripes again.  Further, if the latest allegation, reported by 60 Minutes, is true and he actually ratted out other players for the purpose of diverting attention from himself, including his own teammate, Francisco Cervelli, and Ryan Braun, than that elevates A-Rod to a new level of sleaze.

However, the key word repeated in the paragraph above is, IF.  Like or disliking, and or wanting something to be true doesn’t make it true.  And it doesn’t eradicate someone’s right under due process or the MLB collective bargaining agreement.

Now some players on the Boston Red Sox, outfielder Jonny Gomes and pitcher John Lackey, and Tampa Bay Rays Evan Longoria and team owner Stuart Sternberg are saying A-Rod shouldn’t get to play while he is appealing his suspension.

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John Lackey as part of a brawl with the Oakland Athletics. Hmm.

I’m guessing that Gomes, Lackey and Longoria have either been or played with other players who have been suspended and also appealed them.  Did they have a problem with that then?  Other players have been suspended for PED use and appealed it, where were the cries of not allowing them to play during an appeal?

We don’t get to make special rules for players with a more marquis name or whom we may not like.  This is not how the system works.

Maybe in addition to A-Rod, it is also a case of Yankee hating.  When the talk was of suspension, we heard how unfair it was, from Baltimore Oriole manager Buck Showalter, that the Yankees may benefit from saving the money they would have to pay him.  Now that A-Rod is playing we hear it is unfair that pitchers should have to face him.

Sorry, but you can’t make rules for individual players or teams.  Or change rules after the fact depending on who is involved.  However, these situations can inspire change.  

If players and owners want to change the system and make stiffer penalties for PED use, I’ll vote for that.  If they want to take away a players right to appeal a suspension, that one I am not so sure of.

I’ll tell you what, if you’re going to take away a players right to appeal, do it for pitchers who are suspended for beaning a hitter and potentially ruining his season or far worse. 

A beaning is a case where the evidence is far more immediate and evident.  For events such as beaning, or brawls, I’m open to taking away the right of appeal.  But in situations where we need to see and or hear evidence to support allegations, not so much.

Despite the tough talk on A-Rod, I’m guessing Gomes, Lackey and Longoria wouldn’t be so quick to give up their right to appeal, nor do I see the union voting to make that change.

Right now with A-Rod we have strong allegations and leaks of rumored evidence, that if true and provable, I want him gone as much as anyone.  However, for now he deserves to play as much as any head hunting pitcher who has ever appealed his suspension.

 

 

No Deal Between A-Rod and MLB is a Good Thing

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I hope Alex Rodriguez gets what he deserves.  That sounds like a loaded statement against A-Rod, but it is not.  If someone is guilty of a crime I want him to get the sentence the crime calls for.  If he is innocent, I want him to go free.  If he is guilty of a lesser crime, than the person should be punished accordingly and in line with what others who have committed the same offense and who have the same history or record.

There are a lot of people out there who do not like Rodriguez.  I’m a Yankee fan who never wanted him to be on the team.  When A-Rod opted out of his contract I was praying for the Yankees to sign a Boston Red Sox free agent, Mike Lowell, so third base could be filled and they could move on from A-Rod.  But alas, they didn’t, and then they signed A-Rod to an absurd extension.

However, not liking someone is not an excuse for not sorting through the facts to reach a fair conclusion, or for abusing power.  It’s not for the state to unilaterally do that to its citizens, nor for Major League Baseball (or management) to do it to players (or workers).

A recent example is NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell overreaching in the bounty-gate scandal.  Yes, we need to make football safer for players, and yes bounties are wrong and a rule violation, but in his zeal to make the game safer, Goodell went too far with his punishment and New Orleans Saints players won on appeal.

With performance enhancing drugs, we have an issue where there is seemingly even more agreement that it has to go.  And because Goodell overreached, that doesn’t mean MLB commissioner Bud Selig is currently about to do the same.

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Bill Belichick & Roger Goodell

The reason I don’t want a deal is because I want the full truth to come out.  When deals get made, the truth often gets lost or filed away with clauses that bind both parties from talking.  Evidence gets locked away.  I still want to know what is on those spy-gate tapes that Roger Goodell destroyed in the New England Patriot scandal.

If A-Rod is guilty of the things being reported:

  • Using steroids for three seasons.
  • Obstructing investigations.
  • Leading other players to use steroids.

Further, that the evidence collected against A-Rod far exceeds what they have collected on others, than the ban being talked about, 214 games, sounds fair to me.  And if A-Rod thinks he has received negative press before, wait until all of this supposed evidence comes out.  It will be unrelenting.  Again if the allegations are true, he will deserve much of the scorn he will receive.

However, if MLB is bluffing and or doesn’t have the evidence, like what happened with Goodell and bounty-gate, than regardless of your feelings for A-Rod, he should be punished accordingly and closer to what the other players are receiving, in the 50 game range.

Further, while he still may be guilty of PED use, if the evidence is not there to punish him to the extent being rumored, there will be some small measure of vindication for A-Rod.  And another reminder to the guilty until proven innocent crowd that judgment should be delayed until the all the facts are in.

Personally, I am rooting for MLB to have the evidence that has been suggested they have.  Ever since 2000 when A-Rod talked smack about Derek Jeter, A-Rod has been on my sh*t list.  He hasn’t earned his way off since.

As a Yankee fan, it would be good for the team, to be rid of him and get the salary relief they would receive from such a suspension.  That is $34 million plus whatever they save in luxury tax money that could be applied elsewhere.  Also, if true I want A-Rod to be exposed for the fraud that he is.  I want all of the evidence to be known.

However, if he is just another steroid user, than he deserves to be evaluated, judged and punished in that context.

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One way or the other, as a result of Biogenesis scandal, I think baseball will increase PED penalties for all.  Which is a good thing.  And I applaud the MLB Union and MLBPA director Michael Weiner for their cooperation on this issue. Rather than the usual close ranks and protect the guilt at all costs because that is what is we do.  By taking the big picture view, the Union is helping to protect its players long-term and protect the integrity of the game.