Fire Jim Tracy

Sunday, December 05, 2004

No, Really. Tell Us How You Really Feel

Rob McMillin, obviously trying to ensure that Barry Bonds gets the can for a long, long time, tries desperately to tie this issue to the larger "Drug War" arguments favored by libertarians. A few years ago, the GOP Senate candidate, on Tom Campbell, tried this Drug War argument on a real live electorate. To watch Campbell run up his only winning county-wide margins in conservative places like Placer, Sutter, and Orange Counties was amusing -- and he did run a little bit ahead of where you might have expected him to run in Mendocino (something like 45%, if I remember correctly).

I guess the point is that Rob and others who want to make the point that steroids are not bad for you (or at least, not proven so) and that the drug war is irrational, etc., at least have an argument from a policy standpoint. I have conceded the point for the sake of the argument, even though I don't believe it personally. But Rob is so busy lashing out at straw men and imagined arguments of his own making that this latest jeremiad is hardly helpful to his cause. The Fourth Amendment only bars "unreasonable" searches and seizures. We would have to see what McCain has in mind for legislation before judging whether such is "unreasonable." Specifically, there would be a huge difference in the courts between a search for criminal evidence and an administrative search for some sort of other purpose. For instance, imagine that the Senator wanted to institute a scheme which required a "license" for anyone to play Major League Baseball, and made the granting of such a license dependent on passing drug tests successfully. Testing would not be implemented or revealed except for that purpose. Such an administrative search, if rationally tied to a significant government purpose (which Rob won't like, but which the courts will no doubt recognize in this case whether he likes it or not), would at least have a shot at survival. In any event, we have no idea what McCain would do, so we have no idea whether it would just be "roasting the pig" or not.

Nor does Rob deal with the point I made (which I know he read, because he left a comment) regarding that the FBI has already infiltrated MLB, gotten drug test results, etc. His bus has already left the depot. If MLB, as a Private institution, were to institute its own testing regimen (as the NFL has) then there would be no effect on warrantless searches of fifth graders, which was quite an impressive statement in its breathlessness but has very little real meaning to it. (In fact, the Supreme Court has already stated that high schoolers can be tested -- if 7% of fifth graders tested positive for steroids, the government could probably test them to play sports as well.)

Gammons doesn't come right out and say it, but he strongly hints that Bonds' records should remain intact, as he discusses other hall-of-famers who have "cheated." So all this ire for Gammons based on that seems a bit out of place.

The fact that steroids wouldn't affect performance very much (even if proven) is a red herring. Again, that's the whole point. If you concede that we don't know what steroids do, or at least that there is a disagreement, then to force Major League Baseball players into a position to use steroids in order to keep up with everyone else is ludicrous. And then you put into place a caste system where rookies get to use the old stuff that is probably more dangerous, and Barry Bonds and his friends get to use the happy designer stuff. In any event, Rob leaves this point off of his summary of the anti-steroids argument, and for good reason.

Why is the fact that steroids are illegal "hardly an argument?" Oh yes. I love my favorite players coming up on RICO and controlled substances charges. And the argument is not that it's cheating because it's illegal. The argument is that it is cheating because those that use it force others to make decisions regarding their personal health and long-term safety for the sake of a stupid game. Those who take a risk that is acceptable to them force others to act in a way that is not acceptable,a nd thereby skew the game toward those who are taking the risk. That's the "difference," if you must have one, between Gaylord Perry and Barry Bonds. If Perry threw a spitball, you could throw one back at him without enlarging your head and shrinking your gonads. It's cheating because frankly, some people just don't have the guts to fill themselves with artificial substances of dubious quality, and thereby level the playing field. Those wimpy bastards!

Finally, I appreciate that Rob has put this site on his blog and that people have the opportunity to link to it from there, particularly because we disagree on the main editorial point of this site (and obviously on this issue). I may be wrong, but Rob has at least dealt with the core of the issue, and not trafficked in any nonsense about "whether" Barry Bonds has taken steroids or quibbled with the word "knowingly." Rob, like most Drug Warriors (I use the term non-derisively), is in the minority, but it is a minority with a principled position, that asks a lot of people to take a look at the fundamental core of what underlies our drug policy in this country. Hey, I may be a Mormon, but I grew up in Venice. Such a discussion in many cases might be healthy. But opening up MLB to widespread steroid usage is not going to solve Rob's problems with the Drug War as a whole. These are not the droids you're looking for.

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