Friday, July 24, 2015

PED-No, PES-Yes?

PEDs are bad. "Performance enhancing drugs" are now outlawed in all competitive sports, and have been for a long time now. All in the name of fairness, of course. The use of these substances gave the users an unfair competitive advantage, it is said, and they are also quite dangerous to the body over time.

In spite of the love affairs fans had with Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa and many others, we now look at their achievements as tainted. They cheated.

But, what about PES? "Performance enhancing surgery"? Does this not also confer upon those that have it an advantage as opposed to those that don't have it?

In MLB, many pitchers have what has become routine surgery on their elbows and shoulders called colloquially "Tommy John" surgery, named for the first pitcher to undergo the procedure. It involves the transplanting of a tendon from the leg to replace the damage in the arm.

Many pitchers have had this procedure and have gone on to have successful careers. Some have said that their ability to pitch was enhanced by the surgery. It's a modern medical miracle that has become rather ho-hum in our jaded world. Medical science marches on. Who knows what the future holds in the field of sports medicine?

Since the events of 9/11, the United States has suffered a steady stream of casualties of war from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. Great strides have been made in the use of prosthetics to help the wounded have better lives even in the face of lost limbs.

                 Image result for athletes and veterans prosthetic legsImage result for athletes and veterans prosthetic legs
                Image result for athletes and veterans prosthetic legsImage result for athletes and veterans prosthetic legs

Aside from "special olympics" competitions, athletes have been prevented from competing against the "able bodied" due to the "advantages" that prosthetics confer to those that use them. Oscar Pistorius, the "Blade Runner", may be the most famous and notorious example of this.

But, what are we really protecting by excluding disabled athletes from competing on whatever level that they can? We've had a little person in baseball, a one handed pitcher, ambidextrous pitchers. The "sanctity" of MLB records has been despoiled already with interleague play, expansion, extended playoffs, and various other rule changes (looking at you, DH!).

The current whipping boy for PED usage in MLB is Alex Rodriguez. An admitted user, and liar about that usage, has had his share of health issues the last several years. Two surgically repaired hips have rendered the once fleet footed power hitter a walking double play threat. It is excruciating to watch him slowly make his way around the bases. Fortunately for him, and the Yankees, he still can hit homers and knock in runs as a designated hitter.

What if a new medical technique would have not only repaired his degenerated hips, but make them as "good as new"? Would it be "fair" if Rodriguez' hips and speed could be restored surgically? And what if PEDs, allowed to come out of the shadows, were developed without the dangerous side effects that they have?

It's only a matter of time before these and other questions will need to be addressed by the sports world. Science won't wait for these answers, as transgendered people are more easily and effectively allowed to change the gender their chromosomes claim they are. Renee Richards was a long time ago, but who thinks this question won't arise again?

Is any interest served by excluding anyone from competition for any physical reason? Should surgical enhancements and repairs that are already in common use logically mean that more dramatic methods can not be condoned?

Times have changed and will continue to change. Gambling, once the bane and bogeyman of MLB, resulted in the banning of Pete Rose, the all time hit leader. Now, MLB partners with gambling web sites and advocates for new laws allowing sports betting.

New medical advances will have an impact on sports, whether they are ready or not.

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