Are Performance Enhancing Drugs the Future of Sports?
It's been one hell of a week for performance enhancing drugs, hasn't it? So much so, in fact, that I can't even do my usual tongue-in-cheek piece about Super Bowl media day or an optimistic bit of fluff on my Minnesota Wild. Just when it seemed that Manti Te'o and his bizarre phony girlfriend story had eclipsed Lance Armstrong's way overdue doping admission and simultaneously killed Oprah Winfrey's flagging network (thanks, by the way, Manti) drugs came back with a fury. This week it was S.W.A.T.S. and Biogenesis of America and names like Ray Lewis, Nelson Cruz, A-Rod (shocker!), and Vijay Singh (?) involved with things like Deer Antler Spray and Testosterone Lozenges and Pyramid Holograms? WTF? You seriously cannot make this stuff up. Actually you can, so long as you have a lab and a market. PEDs and the athletes that can't live without them will not be ignored. It makes one wonder, where is this all leading?
The first option is the "shut it down" approach, which is currently the position that most leagues and other sports governing bodies are taking against performance enhancers. Major League baseball and others are instituting stricter bans and tougher testing across the board. They are no longer making it easy for athletes who want to skirt the system to gain a competitve and, let's be honest, monetary edge. The problem is, most of the guys that get to this level did not do so by backing away from a challenge. Meanwhile slimy Victor Conte-wannabes are popping up everywhere with new undetectable substances and regimens for this desperate and deep-pocketed market. So while the new testing is catching some, there are probably twice as many it is not. The good news for the shut-it-downers is that there's a whole new generation of sports-based Woodward and Bernsteins cutting their reporting teeth on sites like Deadspin and Si.com and, maybe even right here on FanIQ who are digging to uncover these stories. The bad news is, even when players are caught, suspended, and publicly humiliated they keep right on trying to beat the system. Which brings us to the future and a possible option number two.
Let's look 10, 20, even 30 years into the future and imagine what the state of sports drug testing will be. At it's best, maybe every competitor in every event will be tested in some fashion several times in a single game or match and the tests will be so foolproof that a single positive will be an automatic lifetime ban. Whoa! Pretty insane thought, but not entirely out of the question. On the other side of the coin, cheating will probably be far more advanced too, as it always is. So what PED-using athletes may have going for their side is practically whatever the imagination can conjure. New undetectable drugs on a daily basis, masking agents with the same make-up as water, strange creatures from the Amazon that you can lick at halftime, soil from Saturn to sniff between innings... Who knows? It's the future, people! Anyway, what if there is no way to stop it? What if sports finally embraced the devil and let players use anything and everything. Let's look at it logically: Owners are greedy and players are greedy and this would certainly open up a whole new revenue stream for both. You can almost hear it now... "Another home run for Sammy Sosa the Third! That's his 85th of this young season and he credits is all to his parents and Nestle's Negatively-Charged Albino Tiger Blood." OK, so maybe there will never be an official Angel Dust of the Oakland Raiders (if there isn't already, that is) but a future where sports leagues throw in the towel and grab the money is never out of the question.
Then again, maybe both sides will just compromise and go their own ways. Sports purists will have their PED-free games on NTN (The Natural Sports Network) while the blood-thirsty, home-run happy, win-at-all-cost mobs will just tune into the channel that just needed to change one of its letters: SPIKED TV. It could happen... couldn't it?