Sure, steroids are illegal, but that argument is terribly flawed
I read a great article by Mike Celizic this morning. I think this speaks volumes about our society, it’s problems, and the challenges many of us face who desire to live by a code of ethics while trying to thrive in a society that encourages results and not the means.
Weâ€™re a nation of cheaters. We chase wrinkles away with botox, get our stomachs stapled, our fat suctioned out, our noses resculpted, our teeth whitened, our hair transplanted, our assets filled out with implants. We fudge our taxes, swipe pens from the supply cabinet, take 10 over the speed limit, and scarf down pills and potions for everything from restless leg syndrome to erectile dysfunction.
Thereâ€™s very little some of us wonâ€™t do to get an edge. How many amateur golfers follow every rule of the game, or even know them? If thereâ€™s a racket or a club or a ball that will help us get more power and distance, weâ€™re all over it. If we play rec-league basketball, we grab jerseys, throw elbows, do anything we can get away with to win.
To get through finals, we take pills that keep us awake. We lift passages off the Internet and stuff them in our term papers, conveniently forgetting to put quotation marks around them or to mention that the writing is not our own. We steal co-workersâ€™ ideas and pawn them off as our own.
But, dammit, our athletic heroes better not cheat.
Does anyone detect a note of hypocrisy in this? Does anyone who reviles Barry Bonds as a cheater admit to even the tiniest flaw in his or her own personal code of ethics? Do any of us stop to consider that Bonds, who has never tested positive for any banned substance, isnâ€™t doing anything that just about every one of us has done at one time or another?
Those are rhetorical questions, so donâ€™t bother answering. Weâ€™re not very good at introspection, anyway. Our own flaws are never flaws, and even if they are, what the other guy is doing is a lot worse, and everythingâ€™s fair in love in war.
So we start our day with something to wake us up, brush our teeth with something to make them artificially brighter, maybe use a shampoo that makes the gray go away, spend a little extra time on the comb-over. If weâ€™re women, we boost this, cinch that, wash, condition, blow-dry and spray our chemically-colored hair, spackle over the blemishes, climb up on miniature stilts and then go out to rail against the artificiality of everyone else.
But Barry Bonds is evil incarnate. And, gee, so many ask, looking at the world with vision made better than perfect by laser surgery, why would he do it?
Because, I keep hearing when I raise these perfectly valid points to those who claim that their faith in sports has been crushed by baseballâ€™s drug scandal, steroids are illegal.
Well, what about all the pitchers who threw spit balls, shine balls, emery balls, cut balls and scuffballs? I ask. They broke the rules of the game. Any baseball player who was doing â€™roids or HGH before 2002 didnâ€™t break any of baseballâ€™s rules, I say.
â€œSteroids are illegal,â€ they say before hopping in their cars and driving away at 15 more than the limit with the cell phone stuck to their ears and their seatbelts unbuckled â€” all so they can beat the other schmuck whoâ€™s obeying the speed limit and get an leg up on a business deal over the dolt who wonâ€™t use his phone in the car.
â€™m sorry, but it doesnâ€™t work. Illegal and immoral are no more synonyms than are legal and ethical. This isnâ€™t about the law; itâ€™s about whatâ€™s right.
If I were writing 100 years ago, I could climb up on my soap box and defend a lout who beat his wife and kids with a stick as having done nothing illegal â€” as long as the stick wasnâ€™t too big. Fifty years before that, I could congratulate someone who turned in a runaway slave as a law-abiding patriot. And in Nazi Germany, if I had protected a Jew, I would have been a criminal.
In all of the above cases, I would have behaved immorally, but I would have been obeying the law.
But thatâ€™s too long ago for a lot of folks, so let me try another one. Until 2003, when the U.S Supreme Court struck down Texasâ€™ law against sex between people of the same gender, there were still nine states that said that heterosexual oral sex was a crime â€” in some cases a felony â€” even between married couples. If you lived in, say, South Carolina or Maryland and had oral sex before 2003, guess what? Youâ€™re a criminal. And if youâ€™re old enough to have enjoyed a roll in the sack before 1960, you are almost certainly a criminal, because until then, every state in the union had a law against oral sex. And Iâ€™m willing to bet you donâ€™t even feel guilty about it.
Weâ€™ve got laws against a lot of things that arenâ€™t particularly harmful to the republic for no other reason than that somebody thought that others were having too much fun. So we canâ€™t smoke marijuana, but we can take dozens of prescription meds that come with more warnings than a chain saw.