The Revisionist History Debate… The Decision Has Been Made so Stick With It!

May 18, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Sports Geek.

As a sports fan I get quite disgusted with repeated occurrences of hearing about how athletes, either knowingly or unknowingly, took performance-enhancing drugs. It doesn’t matter what sport it’s in. Recently, Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended four games after testing positive for hCG. That falls in line with the rules set by the NFL. I’m perfectly fine with that punishment, obviously. However, when talk began to center around the possibility of taking a revote for Defensive Rookie of the Year, I cringed and shook my head. Thankfully, in the revote, the voters chose not to change their earlier decision. Also, the fact they decided to revote totally opens up a can of worms and sets a disturbing precedent.

Obviously, no one is condoning the fact that Cushing violated the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. But I have questions about how all of this came out. Cushing supposedly tested positive back in September. What month are we in now? May?! Why are we just finding out about this now? Why weren’t the voters even told about this when they originally voted? Does it take that long to find out the results? It does not! The original voting of this award was done shortly after the end of the regular season in January. How realistic is it to overturn an award given four months ago?

Flash back to 2002. Then Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. This was despite Peppers violating the league’s drug policy. It turns out he took a banned dietary supplement. What he took is beside the point. If it was okay then, why shouldn’t it be ok now? That’s what voter John McClain of the Houston Chronicle based his vote on. He said, “In good conscience, I couldn’t NOT vote for him after voting for Julius Peppers in 2002 knowing he’s tested positive.”

In addition, a Pandora’s box of problems is opened up if you revisit history and change the chartered course set some four months earlier. If this revote had overturned the previous decision, the NFL would have set a precedent not only for its own sport, but for other sports as well. What if other award winners test positive at some point in the future? Maybe he was juiced up during his award winning season. How do you determine if that was the case? To avoid any future problems, the AP should have just stuck with its original vote and left it at that. It just wouldn’t be worth the headache that it would have caused if the award had been rescinded.

The decision has been made. The people, or in this case, the voters, had already spoken! Stick with it!
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The HGH Testing in the Minor Leagues Debate – To Test or Not To Test? That is the Question For MLB

March 4, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Bleacher Fan.

Recently, Terry Newton—a rugby player from the United Kingdom—made headlines as the world’s first professional athlete to receive a suspension for using human growth hormones (HGH). What is even more shocking is the fact that he actually owned up to it. While on the surface this looks to be a giant leap forward in the battle against performance enhancing drugs, the truth is a test for HGH has been around since the Athens Olympics in 2004. Now, however, baseball officials seem to be chomping at the bit to start testing players. Bud Selig’s current plan is to experiment with the blood based test in the minor leagues and then potentially bring it to the major league. Today’s debate addresses the issue, should Major League Baseball (MLB) bother with beginning testing for HGH in the minor leagues or just go straight to testing in the Majors?

Suggesting that HGH testing move straight to the Bigs is a knee-jerk reaction at best. Baseball officials have been functioning in damage control mode because of performance enhancing drug scandals for so long that they seem to have forgotten how to address issues – with a plan. Nothing would be gained from rushing the implementation of the test, except a shallow perception that baseball is somehow tougher on performance enhancing drugs. Testing for HGH would not change the weak suspensions that MLB issues for offenders. So what is to gain by hastily implementing a controversial “new” test that baseball has previously criticized? Absolutely nothing!

Let me play devil’s advocate for a moment by posing the questions, what is the big deal about HGH use in the first place? Is it really that bad? Dr. Richard Hellman, the president of the board of directors for the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) states that, “careful scientific studies show that the effect of the growth hormone on improving muscle strength [to a professional athlete] is relatively small and much less important than their training regiment.” Hellman also states that, “When a healthy adult male takes growth hormone either to improve athletic performance, or to improve muscle building, or to prevent aging, he is always making a mistake and wasting his money…There is little benefit from these substances [HGH and androgens], and unlimited risk.” The side effects of excessive HGH use include changes in temperament, anger problems, excessive sweating, arthritis, and even diabetes. These side effects are most certainly a punishment in their own right, not to mention the fact that they could actually shorten a player’s career. In my opinion the negatives far outweigh the positives and the athlete engaging in the risky behavior is in reality cheating himself.

There is also a matter of timing to consider. Baseball’s current labor contract does not expire until 2011. Taking action at the major league level before that time would require the consent of the players’ union. Supposing that the players union rejects the proposal to test in the majors in 2010, which both the MLB and NFL players unions have done previously, the media backlash would be monumental. Baseball already has a tarnished image, due in no small part to performance enhancing drug scandals. The last thing Bud Selig wants right now is to have to explain away why baseball players do not want to submit to more drug testing. If HGH testing is something MLB deems essential, then they should test it in the minor leagues this year and make it a sticking point for the Majors under the next labor agreement. We are seriously talking about the difference of waiting one season at the major league level. Anything more drastic could potentially cause a work stoppage. Can baseball afford that right now, during the current economic recession? I do not think so. Certainly baseball has a responsibility to clean up the game, but that does not mean that they should sacrifice good business sense to do it.

Plus this debate hangs on a very fine point–should HGH blood testing be instituted at the major league level this year. No one is suggesting that baseball bury its head in the ground like it did during the steroid era of the 1990s. I merely suggest that MLB use caution moving forward. HGH blood testing is not universally seen as trustworthy. Although an HGH blood test has been around for nearly 6 years, baseball officials have previously questioned the tests validity. Now, in the wake of one suspension issued because of one unchallenged, positive test on a different continent in another sport, and baseball officials are starting to sing a different tune. It just does not seem like a well thought out plan to jump head first into full blown, major league 40-man roster testing without at least trying it at the minor league level first. Imagine the publicity nightmare that would ensue if a high profile all-star, like Albert Pujols, tests positive and then publicly disputes the validity of a test which the league also previously questioned. That would require some major back peddling from Bud Selig. Baseball has a plan in place, and there is no justification to push this on the Majors without having tested it at the minor league level first.

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The HGH Testing in the Minor Leagues Debate – An Absence of Logic

March 4, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless.

I feel like I am studying for the SATs right now.

Consider this scenario – There is a problem of people speeding while driving on the highway. There is also a device called a radar gun that allows police officers to see how fast people are going. Common sense dictates that the police should use that radar gun to identify those people who violate the speed limit. Once identified, consequences can be put in place and the police now have an effective way to help preserve the rules for driving. Problem solved.

Let us now apply that same logic to the problem of steroids in baseball.

Consider THIS scenario – There is a problem in Major League Baseball with steroid use, including Human Growth Hormone (HGH). There is also a test that is believed to successfully identify the presence of HGH in blood.

This shouldn’t be THAT hard to figure out!

Despite that painfully OBVIOUS solution to this problem, there is still no real talk of HGH testing in Major League Baseball. WHY?! Everyone claims that they WANT to get rid of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in the game, including Commissioner Bud Selig, the league owners, the players, and even the players’ union.

I will say it again – this should not be THAT hard to figure out!

Misplaced Attention

Rather than implement this HGH test for players in Major League Baseball, though, the league has instead decided to use it ONLY in the Minor Leagues – how does that make sense? That is like having kids in Driver’s Education take a breathalyzer test to help curtail drinking and driving among adults, or having the FBI raid your City Council to address reports of corruption in the US Senate. It is a token gesture designed to give the ILLUSION that something is being done, although it does not even come CLOSE to resolving the actual issue at hand. Essentially, Selig has decided that the best way to prevent Major League players from using HGH is by testing people who are not even in Major League Baseball – BRILLIANT!

Are players in the Minor Leagues are also using HGH? Sure. However, the public is not clamoring for a crackdown because the backup catcher for the Toledo Mudhens could be using HGH. Likewise, if we found out tomorrow that a middle-reliever in the bullpen of the Albuquerque Isotopes tested positive for HGH, most people wouldn’t even notice. However, the simple RUMOR of a player in the Major Leagues is enough to garner national attention in the media.

The reason for this lack of concern at the Minor League level is because these players are not making MILLIONS of dollars by cheating. Don’t get me wrong – It is absolutely a problem, and it should be addressed. However, it should be address ALONG WITH, rather than INSTEAD OF the problem in Major League Baseball.

Foolish Resistance

One of the biggest roadblocks standing in the way of implementing this common-sense procedure is the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA). They have balked at the idea of this new HGH test because it requires a much more invasive process. Rather than ask the player to simply provide a urine sample, blood must be drawn directly from the person being tested. What they are failing to understand, though, is that the public doesn’t care about whether or not a millionaire athlete has to roll up their sleeve for a little needle-poke. Is that a FAIR perception? No, but it is the perception nonetheless.

Likewise, is it FAIR that these players are viewed as being guilty until proven innocent? Probably not, but in the court of public opinion (which is ultimately the court that the MLB must please if it wishes to stay in business), fairness is rarely taken into consideration. As far as the general public is concerned, a refusal to take the test is tantamount to a public admission of guilt. The longer that the MLBPA continues to fight this test, the greater the corresponding public outcry will be to get something put in place.

Just yesterday, new reports emerged of yet another HGH investigation involving Dr. Anthony Galea, along with (you guessed it) Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, and Jose Reyes. It has become the latest in a series of embarrassments to the MLB and its once beloved players. These investigations will CONTINUE to emerge, and each will further damage the reputation of Major League Baseball, until a SATISFACTORY measure is put in place to control the use of these banned substances.

The Importance of Fan Buy-In

With the possibility of NBA and NFL players’ strikes looming in the next few years, baseball has a unique opportunity to bolster support from its fans. During a time when two of the biggest sports in America may be inactive, Major League Baseball has the potential to greatly strengthen their own fanbase, but that will only happen if the fans are satisfied with the product they are given. Now is the time for the MLB to do everything in its power to BUILD fan support, not alienate it!

Fans of the game despise cheaters and demand that REAL action be taken in the Major Leagues to address this issue. Now that there is a REAL option in place to test for HGH, there is no excuse not to use it. If Major League Baseball TRULY wants to resolve the problem of PEDs, and TRULY wants to keep its fans happy, then HGH testing for ALL players must be implemented immediately!

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The Blood Testing in Non-Unioned Sports Debate – What Are You Hiding?

January 7, 2010

Read the debate intro and the opposing argument from Babe Ruthless that blood testing should not be required in non-union sports.

Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Rodney Harrison, Marion Jones, Ben Johnson, Bill Romanowski, Shawne Merriman, Tyler Perry?! Well, you get the picture.

The illusions of fair play, good sportsmanship, and honest athletes have been completely shattered. No more is the innocence of “the boys of summer” or “America’s pastime” preserved. Instead, innocence has been replaced by “Show me the money,” contract athletes, the win-at-all cost mentality, and athletes who are more concerned about off-the-field celebrity status than on-the-field performance.

Being a sentimental sports fan, it pains me to face that harsh reality, but it is a reality nonetheless. Athletes can no longer be taken at their word for being honest and hard working. History has shown us that the billion dollar industry of athletic competition creates too much temptation for athletes who want to make “the big bucks.” Athletes today have proven that they are willing to shortcut and cheat the system to gain a competitive edge over opponents, even at the expense of their own physical well-being.

Since the participants can no longer be trusted to train honestly and ethically, it then becomes the responsibility of larger governing bodies to enforce the ideals of pure competition. In order to ensure that sports remain a matchup of people competing based solely on talent (as opposed to a comparison of who got the better injections), it is vital that ALL sports take on a more proactive approach to drug screening. Mandatory blood testing is the most effective method today.

Just because athletes in boxing, cycling, or track and field (for example) are not bound to the governing rules of a player’s union does not mean they should have the right to decline blood testing.

The problem is that athletes who refuse to test give the appearance that they have something to hide. Consider boxer Manny Pacquiao, who has refused to submit to the increased blood testing that Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has requested. He claims that his reason is a dislike for the process of having blood drawn. So let me get this straight – Manny Pacquiao has no problem at all with standing in front of another man and getting beaten senseless (or beating him senseless, which is more often the case). He will exchange punches to the head, face, and body, resulting in cuts, tears, and blood. But he cannot stomach a little needle and pin prick to help verify that he is not cheating? I don’t buy it!

It is precisely for that reason that athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps already voluntarily submit to a greater number of tests than is currently required. They understand that the feats they have accomplished seem so extraordinary that many will question whether they have legitimately accomplished them, or if they instead have cheated in some way.

Just imagine the backlash if Michael Phelps had not volunteered for the extra testing after winning his eight gold medals in Beijing. It would cast doubt on his accomplishments, because people would think he has something to hide. Consequently, that doubt would radiate into speculation about the sanctioning bodies in which Phelps competes. Just as Major League Baseball has been accused of allowing its players to use steroids, the International Olympic Committee would be challenged and their legitimacy would be diminished.

Why blood testing, though? Simply put, it is harder to “fool” a blood test than it is a urine test. Blood testing seems to bring with it the confidence necessary to ensure fairness and quell speculation, which are the purposes of drug testing. Athletes, and the sanctioning organizations they compete under, should be clamoring to ensure their reputations remain unquestioned and untarnished, and the best way to do that is through mandatory blood testing.

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The New Coach with Questionable Ethics Debate – Past, Ethics Matter To All

November 4, 2009

Read the debate intro, Loyal Homer’s argument, and Bleacher Fan’s argument about the importance of a coach’s ethics when an organization hires a former player as a new coach.

Readers, please tell me where else you can find an insightful sports commentary website that quotes Friedrich Nietzsche. If you can, The Sports Debates will retire right now. Since I am confident a search would yield zero results, I shall continue on to the verdict on a topic that is sure to ruffle some feathers.

Bleacher Fan used a great, borderline brilliant quote… but it is not the quote from Nietzsche. Bleacher Fan wrote, “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” Accuracy does not matter in the court of public opinion. It has rendered its verdict, and the results are not good for Mark McGwire – or Loyal Homer.

Bleacher Fan wins this debate because truth is not always slogged away in the minute facts. Sometimes truth is found in perception. Bleacher Fan’s quote accurately depicts public perception of Mark McGwire and any player implicated as a factor in the so-called Steroids Era in Major League Baseball.

Public perception matters a great deal in this case. St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols has more at risk in this new arrangement than any other hitter on the team because he is doomed if he succeeds, and doomed if he fails… and his fate is now tied to McGwire’s. If Pujols has a poor season at the plate in 2010, Cardinals fans and management will be very frustrated. If Pujols has a banner season at the plate fans and media will berate him and his coach with questions about how – EXACTLY – he improved his performance. It is unlikely that answers from Pujols like, “I was dipping my shoulder and McGwire fixed that” or “I now hold my front arm higher to create more force through the zone” will satisfy skeptics.

A few, select players are not the only ones affected, either. The entire world of baseball is impacted when a coach of questionable ethical background is hired. The taint of that coach’s reputation permeates not just the players directly under his influence, but any interactions he has throughout baseball.

For the integrity of the record book – and the integrity of the Cardinals’ hitters – McGwire should not be the hitting coach.

Loyal Homer made some interesting points, though I respectfully disagree with them. Loyal Homer said that a player’s past does not matter. A player’s past does matter – a lot. The past is the composition of the present and the forecast of the future. The past cannot matter for McGwire as a means to inform coaching best practices but not impact the way he coaches the team. It is an inescapable, unacceptable paradox.

If the Cardinals begin to make dramatic improvements in hitting next season the general fan will care about McGwire’s past. The media will ask a relentless barrage of skeptical questions, and any success that comes as a result of McGwire’s coaching influence is forever shrouded in doubt.

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The New Coach with Questionable Ethics Debate – Do Questionable Ethics Matter When Hiring Coaches?

November 3, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument and Bleacher Fan’s argument about the importance of ethics when an organization hires a former player with questionable ethics as a new coach.

I cannot help but wonder… will the St. Louis Cardinals new hitting coach, former home run king Mark McGwire, refuse to help the team’s players because everything he learned about hitting is in the past he so reluctantly addresses?

It is easy as a fan or a member of the media to sit in judgment of Mark McGwire. His abject refusal to answer any and all questions pertaining to his steroid use in a 2005 Congressional Hearing on the subject – for fear that he may “jeopardize” his friends, family, and himself – changed his status from esteemed former player to disgraced side-stepper. In other words, his non-answer was a definitive answer. McGwire did steroids during his career as a professional baseball player, at least according to his own brother who claims to have introduced the slugger to the substance. McGwire, the slugger that helped rejuvenate a fledgling MLB in an all-time home run battle in 1998 with Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa, became just another former player implicated in a scandal that marred one of the greatest slugging eras in the history of baseball.

If McGwire knowingly took performance-enhancing drugs even though the rules – and the conscience of any professional – indicate that is a wrong choice, why should the slugger now be allowed to coach?

If a player, according to one interesting argument from the Ethics Scoreboard, is unfit for the Hall of Fame due to ethical question marks, why is that player fit for coaching and influencing other players?

McGwire has never expressed remorse about his decision to take performance-enhancing drugs because he has never admitted to it publically, even though the court of public opinion has already rendered its verdict.

While baseball cannot explicitly prohibit McGwire from coaching in the Major Leagues, it is reasonable to question the employment of a player turned coach given questionable game-related ethics.

Using Mark McGwire as an example, should a former athlete of questionable ethics be permitted to coach?

For the purposes of this debate, set aside any OSHA and equal opportunity employment arguments that may be forming your skulls. Keep this debate focused solely on the question.

Loyal Homer will argue that former athletes of questionable ethics should be permitted to coach while Bleacher Fan will argue that former players with dubious ethical behavior should not be allowed to formally influence current players.

No behind the scenes lobbying, debaters. And no caffeine prior to writing. Play ball!

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The Publish the Steroids List Debate – The Verdict

July 8, 2009

Read Loyal Homer’s argument to release the list, and Bleacher Fan’s argument to keep the list from the public.

Steroid speculation is poison to baseball. Speculation plus the Internet? That’s speculation on, well… steroids.

Major League Baseball is in a difficult spot. They have a list of just over 100 players who agreed to be tested for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003 under the belief that the results of their tests would not be made public by MLB. The last part of that, “by MLB,” is really important. The facts indicate that the list is being leaked out… slowly… by the tried and true “unnamed sources.” The leaks are not controllable at this point, and every bit of new information is pounced on by the media and subsequently dominates the news cycle for the next several days (sorry, plstcoscr61, it will not take until 2060 for all the names to be released).

First it was New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (who will forever be remembered as “A-Roid”). Then it was Sammy Sosa. There’s a pattern developing, and MLB commissioner Bud Selig does not like it.

But, conditions have changed since the original agreement was made. Just ask A-Roid. That’s why I must award the debate win to…


The essence of this debate is should MLB publish the list. Bleacher Fan calls into question what the players have to gain from the list being published. While Bleacher Fan says they stand to gain nothing, I think the players stand to win the most. Ultimately, it’s that point that swung the verdict back toward Loyal Homer. Allow me to explain.

Current Chicago Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee is a solid MLB player (just ask Mrs. Sports Geek). But, his name was on the dreaded list that published. If I’m a lifelong Cubs fan, two things go through my mind. First, Lee nearly winning the batting title in 2005 makes more sense (even though the alleged positive test came in 2003). Lee is a lifetime .283 hitter, and it is difficult to understand how a player could, for one year, hit the cover off the ball (including a career high 46 homers and a .335 batting average) when he hit over 30 homers just two times previously (31 in 2003, 32 in 2004). See, here’s the speculation Loyal Homer is talking about. The Cubs fan is thinking, “hmmmm…” until, “Eureka!” In 2003, Lee was playing for the Florida Marlins. The SAME Florida Marlins who had Derrek Lee as their first baseman. The same Lee that delivered a two-run double in the top of the eighth inning to chase a seemingly dominant Mark Prior from the game, and start one of the greatest meltdowns/comebacks in the history of baseball (duh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh, nuh BART-MAN!!!). Now the Cubs fan is mad. If Lee was able to muscle that double into left center because of steroids, they should feel more cheated by that than by anything Bartman did.

The point I’m making with that story is… what if Derrek Lee didn’t cheat? What if he did NOT test positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2003? After reading that published list, it’s easy to conclude that he must be guilty, and it changes the way he’s perceived – regardless of the truth. The list must be published to protect the countless players that never cheated – especially if speculation says they did.

Bleacher Fan is correct, the players agreed to testing only if the “information” they shared would never be publically released. However, with a weakened Donald Fehr soon vacating the head post at the MLBPA, the time of transition within the MLBPA as they transfer power is the right time for Selig to push for a new agreement with the MLBPA that allows for the release of the list. This is not breaking the law – it’s adjusting the law to a new environment.

While on the surface it seems that Selig would be undertaking a Herculean task here, he can lead the charge to do something baseball should have done a long time ago with steroids – take time to explain to the players why they MUST disclose those who are guilty. I genuinely understand the “Fraternal Order of Major League Players,” but in the case of the steroids era, that inherent secrecy is alienating fans. At a time when MLB is doing a better job of creating a transparent environment (e.g. MLB Network… which is outstanding, by the way), there is a real opportunity to truly begin healing the steroids era, and baseball must jump at the chance. Selig should burn all of the political capital he has left to make it happen.

If he can pull off the disclosure of this list, no fans will question other names that may or may not be on a list, no more records and batting averages will be called into question, and there is the opportunity for bold action that will bring final closure on the poisonous steroids era in baseball. Selig can define his legacy by being the commissioner that cleaned up baseball. Right now, he’s merely the commissioner that SAID he wants to clean up baseball, but hasn’t done a whole lot about it.


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