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I would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Steve Sailer for his ability to post TWO times in a row without a personal attack of Gladwell.


Hopefully, no displaced aggression activities (punching a wall or kicking a cat/dog) were needed.

Urban Garlic

I haven't seen the straightforward issue of fairness raised, in the post or in any of the replies, although a few folks pointed out (correctly) that MLB is not a state actor, so I'm in no danger of conflating the fairness question with the rights question.

Baseball, in addition to a business, is a competitive game, and it has rules, and there is a presumption that participants agree in good faith to be bound by the rules. I think this is the origin of the moral content of the drug scandal -- players who use performance-enhancing drugs are acting in bad faith, using tools not sanctioned by the rules to enhance their performance. It's cheating in the same way that using a special high-performance bat or magic shoes would be cheating.

It's true that there's a big grey area between legitimate treatment for real medical issues, and cheating, but the existence of the grey area doesn't mean that there is no distinction, and I think the way you tell which side of the line you're on is to ask whether or not you have gained an unfair advantage or abrogated the presumption of good faith regarding the rules. Sometimes this will be a hard question to answer but, again, that doesn't mean it shouldn't be asked.

Christopher Horn

From this week's SI article about the Mitchell report:

"Clemens, for instance, was 6-6 with a 3.27 ERA with the 1998 Blue Jays when he...asked him (Jose Canseco) for his help injecting steroids. For the rest of the season Clemens went 14-0 with a 2.29 ERA."

In the earlier thread Malcolm questioned the bulk-producing ability of HGH, particularly as it related to a little guy like Vina. Most people probably think of the impact of baseball drug use with reference to the ballooning size of Barry Bonds' head.

The Clemens factoid above points to a different aspect of baseball's drug problem, an aspect that might bedevil the stats-loving baseball purists for many years to come.

Clemens' ERA dropped 1 run per 9 innings from the first to second half of 1998, going from a "very good" 3.27 to a "very VERY good" 2.29. Assuming Clemens pitches about 6 innings per start, that means "2nd half" Clemens was allowing about 2/3 of a run less per outing than "1st half" Clemens.

His win-loss record, by contrast, went from a completely pedestrian 6-6 to an out-of-this-world 14-0.

Why the discrepancy in won-loss vs. ERA effect? Its hard to say without more data, but my guess is that juiced Roger is better able to handle the concentration required in close games. So when there's a runner on second with 2 outs in the 6th inning of a 1-1 game, perhaps juiced Roger is better able to multi-task and deal with both runner and batter much more easily than non-juiced Roger.

This matters of course because wins and losses are the money stat in baseball, more so than ERA.

We don't tend to discuss the unnatural concentration benefits of steroids, but it could be disrupting the game as much as the Bondsian-type fourfold increase in hat size.


I have struggled with the concept of why legally obtained HGH is a banned substance, yet athletes are permitted to get performance enhancing surgery (e.g. laser eye surgery). With the former, at least in theory there is some medical reason for it (hence the prescription), with the latter there appears to be no medical reason other than to improve your eye sight and hence your performance.

Another way I have thought about it is if hypothetically HGH could be shown to have no adverse medical impact, would an athlete taking HGH under the supervision of a doctor be any different than getting laser eye surgery?


Jon, I agree with you. Assuming there is no medical impact, there should be nothing wrong with any performance enhancing procedure. In the case of LASIK, the only competitors who would be put at a disadvantage would be those who couldn't afford it, and those squeamish about eye surgery.

In the case of steroids or HGH, those at a disadvantage are the people not willing to sacrifice their long-term health for the sake of competition.

The issue is not that something is perfomance enhancing, it's whether or not it places everyone else at an unfair advantage.


correction - "Unfair DISadvantage"


Malcolm Gladwell wrote:

>The doctor could also have prescribed human growth hormone, if he wanted to. Even though HGH is not approved for injury recovery, a physician is free to prescrbe virtually any drug he/she wants to, in an off-label manner.

NOT REALLY! As I posted in the comments to Vina, Part 1, that's true for most Rx drugs, but not hGH. 21USC333(e) specifically outlaws distribution of hGH for any non-FDA-approved human use.

I guess it might be technically OK to *write* an off-label Rx for hGH, but it is (apparently) illegal to *fill* one.


Sir, I know I am but a single voice in a crowd of responses you get.

But I find your brand of logic simply laser like. You've a gift for dissecting an issue and you're inspiration to our predominantly lazy citizenry.

Good Show.


Let me make a few points here:

1) There are no laws against putting a card up your sleave.

2) Having an ace up your sleave is useful if you're holding a losing hand.

3) Pulling a card out of your sleave is legal!!!! FURTHER.....IT HAS NO ADVERSE MEDICAL EFFECTS!!!!!



Will somebody please think of the children!?!?

- Ms. Lovejoy


this is good!

James Clark

Hey, what about getting Lasik eye surgery for vision improvement? That has to be one of the top performance enhancement procedures an athlete can do. Hitting a baseball starts with having good vision....


I think page SR-10 of the Mitchell Report, which addresses the governing laws and MLB policies regarding performance-enhancing drug use, would help with understanding some of the MLB rules with regards to prescribed versus unprescribed drugs.
With specific respect to Vina, McNamee stated that Vina first talked to him about performance-enhancing drugs as a minor leaguer in the Mets system in 1993, though Vina didn't purchase any performance-enhancing drugs from McNamee until 2000 according to the Mitchell Report. The Mitchell Report has produced 8 checks from Vina to McNamee from 2000 to 2005, and McNamee has stated the checks were for HGH and steroids (specifically, Winstrol and Deca Durabolin).
While I agree with your premise that if a legitimate doctor (and legitimate needs to be stressed, given the issues with licensed doctors getting paid by the prescription to write prescriptions for clients they never meet) believes HGH will help a major leaguer recover from an injury, that major leaguer should be allowed to improve his health through the use of HGH without the league interfering.
However, Vina's case is the wrong case to illustrate this viewpoint. His admission of taking HGH for one season to recover from an injury is almost certainly a lie given McNamee's story and the eight checks to McNamee starting two seasons before his stated injury issues.
If Vina had a prescription from his regular doctor for a reasonable amount of HGH over a reasonable amount of time to recover from an injury, I might be inclined to believe his story. Since he didn't have a 5-year injury and he chose to get his drugs from a pusher rather than a respectable physician, I can only conclude he was trying to enhance his performance through drug use.
For these reasons, I cannot support the Free Fernando movement.


(posted on BP today)

Utterly F***ing Ridiculous.

by Gary Huckabay

The House Oversight Committee has summoned several players and former players, including Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, to testify before the committee. (Basic story can be found at: http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/2008-01-04-clemens-congress_N.htm)
All this time, I thought there was a writer’s strike. But surely, this has to be fiction, right? Pakistan is teetering on the brink of chaos. The economy’s fragile at best, plagued by fear, uncertainty, and doubt, both on the business and consumer side. Oil’s at $100 a barrel. We’ve got nearly 200,000 troops deployed and in harm’s way around the world. The federal debt is to the point where it’s about to grow by a digit — which would be its 14th.

So, facing these, and lots of other issues that face the citizenry, Henry Waxman and crew have decided to spend their time, their staff’s time, and, unfortunately, our time, by grilling a bunch of ballplayers about whether or not they used substances to enhance their play on the field.

Let’s stipulate to a couple things, just as part of a thought experiment. Let’s say that all the players are guilty. Of everything any has in the back of their mind. Dianabol Smoothies. HGH facial wraps. Testosterone-injecting parties that make the party scene in ‘JFK’ seem like a Sunday afternoon at Orrin Hatch’s house. Let’s go further. Let’s say that these ballplayers are making personal visits to high schools across the nation, speaking to classrooms every day with the central message of “Steroids worked for me! And now I’m a Hall of Fame ballplayer, rolling in cash, and tapping tail that would make Brad Pitt and Jay-Z genuflect before me.” At the end of each speech, players pass out samples of D-Bol and HGH, and some delicious fruit roll-ups, laced with ‘The Clear’.

That still wouldn’t warrant this kind of treatment. Waxman and his committee are displaying the basest kind of vile pandering, willing to do anything for a few minutes in front of a live camera with an opportunity to wag their atherosclerotically clubbed fingers in righteous anger. We’re talking about small widgets in a small business, that’s already done a hell of a job cleaning up their act, if you actually look at the numbers.

And before anyone gets the idea of writing me with yet another ironically juvenile “What about the children?!?!?!?” diatribe…piss off. The children are at far greater risk from the advertisement barrages that bracket innings within the game. No six year old should know who the hell Spuds MacKenzie or the Budweiser frogs are. Let’s tally up the damage to children from steroids compared to alcohol, shall we? Selective protection of the young teaches hypocrisy.

This whole issue is bulls–t, and everyone, in their heart of hearts, knows it. The collective societal masturbation on this issue is something out of Ionesco, and the number of whorish sell-outs who should resign in disgrace is climbing faster and more brazenly than Barry Bonds‘ HR totals ever did.

Don’t sit idly by and accept this miserable performance from Congress. Make a call. Drop an e-mail. Better yet, write a letter. Good Lord, if me or anyone else did their jobs in a similar fashion, we’d be justifiably terminated in nothing flat.


LX, that was really well said. And thank you for reminding me, I can stop whining and start letter writing any time now.....I do live in a free country after all.

I'll try to be polite and stick to the topic, I do think that between the fact that some drugs are more difficult to test for than others, plus the fact that there are so many gray areas, there are a few options:

* The Hall of Fame and other awards will simply lose their status. Even if drugs aren't proven, the mere suspicion of their use will kill the glory no matter what.

* Personally I think that trust is the best option, maybe if we just go by faith then Karma can punish the cheaters, who almost always fall into some trap sooner or later.

But Congress taking up a second of their time on this? How can any sane person be okay with that? Listen, it was 2 degrees below zero here last week, now it's 65 degrees. It's not good.

Before you know it only the wealthy baseball stars and our government officials will be able to afford water. Then won't we be so glad we spent so much time on the steroid scandal? Oh boy, it was so worth it!

James A. Ireland

Mr. Gladwell,

The whole issue is indeed perplexing, and you rightly point out several vexing paradoxical elements (LASIK surgery vs. HGH for example) to the attempts at control of drugs by MLB.

However, in answer to your point 8. I would offer the following. No one would deny anyone the right to medical treatment as a doctor prescribes (off-label treatment or recommended uses of legal drugs). The question of illegal drug use, performance enhancing qualities of some drugs, etc. has degenerated the thinking and arguments from many of the esteemed people involved in the investigations and the press into a quasi-ethical debate which is needless, although it does help sell papers, and whip up public vitriol toward fallen heros.

If we simply look upon MLB's efforts as the admitedly somewhat arbitrary control of the use of some drugs by an employer among its employees, (or perhaps licensing body over licensees) then the matter becomes much more clear. This model serves very well (the occasional drunken airline pilot we read about aside) in principal among the community of licensed pilots. All pilots must be medically fit at all times when they fly (and must prove this at prescribed times to a certified aviation physician), and must be completely free of the influence of the majority of drugs (prescription and otherwise), while other drugs are permitted in controlled quantities, and a few are permitted without control.

In the aviation community and in the FAA's (and most other civil aviation authorities) thinking this is regarded as a safety issue. But from a practical view point for commercial and airline transport pilots it is also a condition of employment. No one would say that a pilot cannot use any prescription drug (and some OTC drugs) obtained legally that the pilot might require, either in the pilot's or his doctor's opinion. But in most cases the pilot would be unfit to fly while requiring the treatment (and indeed might be disqualified from ever flying again because of the underlying problem requiring the medication). The pilot cannot fly ... the pitcher cannot pitch ... the slugger cannot knock doubles and homers to the wall. Need there be a difference?

If we, or indeed the MLB owners, the Commissioner, and the MLBPA (the PA would not doubt argue that this would place unfair limits on the players' "rights" to pursue their livelihood, but to heck with that argument, as it doesn't work in many other lines of work ... such as for pilots) simply approach this as an issue of conditions of employment (arbitrary as they might seem to be), then all of these dilemmas disappear. The law is still the law. Illegal drug use is illegal, and disqualifying for employment. Then there are simple conditions of employment (some of these would include unfitness to play while requiring certain drugs for medical treatment). If we simply say that no one has the "right" to be a professional athlete, but as a professional it is a privilege to be so engaged (which at the highest level indeed it is financially), and with the exercise of this privilege (and the sometimes attendant vast sums of money) come a few restrictions then all of this makes practical and ethical sense of what for now is a quagmire. It's a shame all the associated parties cannot just figure this out and move on.

Of course this assumes that anyone associated with MLB really cares about any of this. It is becoming more clear that so much of this investigative performance right now is a mere pantomime by everyone associated with MLB, as the vast income (more than $US6 billion last year (2007) gross I seem to remember reading ... more than ever before, even in adjusted dollars) generated would indicate to all involved that the machine is working fine, and for now the fans don't seem to care very much, as they coming out (or sitting at home) and watching like never before. It has been more that 25 years since steroids appeared on the scene in MLB, and a decade of seeming never ending growth since the mid-90s, and the beginning of the era of the home-run (with McGwire, Bonds, etc) as the primary offensive weapon in baseball the number of which seemed to grow almost as fast as the size of most of the men hitting them. If it really mattered to anyone in MLB it could be readily fixed. I'm not sure anyone does.

medical videos research news

good effort

medical videos research news


Ben the HGH guy

You bring up some good points. I think the sports leagues are just trying to keep things fair. But as you mentioned, hgh has incredible healing properties and every person that I know that uses it, swears by its anti aging effect.


They say it's the best instrument they have.


The doctor finds that the patient's testosterone count is low.

D Hodge

Has anyone actually scene the MLB drug policy outside of baseball? I heard a guy on WEEI in Boston a year or so ago saying that he policy allows testosterone levels in the players 100X that of a normal man. The problem comes after the level spikes above that. If anyone could post a link for the policy it would be appreciated. I say that it will never be shown to the fans, we would be shocked to find out the truth...

prescription assistance

athletes come out and use the medicinal excuse AFTER they're caught right? why dont they just say it before and save the whole drama peice? =\

great post.


What I've never understood is why the owners don't just turn the drug testing and punishment over to the players' union. Ultimately, it's the players that are affected; forced to take drugs whether they want to or not to keep up with each other so as to maintain their salaries. Most unions are interested in the health and welfare of their members; professional sports unions seem to be unique in not caring about this.

If steriods are bad for a professional sport, then surely the players would be damaged by reduced income, and job loss if teams were to fold. Therefore, the players have the same monetary reason to manage this as the owners with the added incentive of their health.

Amateur sport does need to be treated differently as it can not self-police.

Mario Castro

I had class A (commercial license).
My tree years old son was prescribed medication with steroids,and other drugs, he stared acting wild and I decided to test his medication.That day I was random tested and was call to the office to clarify this positive test, I did not now that that little dossis of med will come up on the test. My point is, if I had a medical need for ANY meds, I will summited to my bosses.

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