Saturday, December 15, 2007

Once Again...Steroids and Baseball in the News. (When will the Neo-Puritans give it a rest?)

According to the New York Times, “…Former Sen. Mitchell's 300-plus page document on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, 21 months in the making, claims that nearly 90 players -- most notably Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Miguel Tejada -- are guilty of using some form of PEDs.” [Perfomance Enhancing Drugs]

When Mark Magwire was hounded by the press for using Androstendione ( a substance that was legal and sold over the counter in Golds Gyms, GNCs, and Drug Stores across America), it was easy to point the finger an “One Bad Guy.” When Barry Bonds was fingered as a steroid user, the writers at Sports Illustrated (sports nuts who cant play, but who delight in the catty process of creating legends and then destroying them) frothed at the mouth, issue after issue, because they could crucify One Bad Guy.

But, now it appears that steroids have appeared in major league baseball across the spectrum of teams. Surprise, surprise.....

TWO YEARS AGO I wrote about the prevalence of steroids in sports, and also proposed that it really is Not a crisis in need of ‘fixing.’ I know I went against the flow by writing that. But I maintain my stand, and repeat what I wrote then:

“…Sitting on my shelf is a bottle of ProLab ThermaPro, a thermogenic designed to raise metabolism and help burn fat. I used this (same basic ingredients as the old Hydroxycut and Xenadrine) several summers ago, while running in the hot Dakota sun every morning while trying to lose weight and tone up (mission: successful!). Ah, but this product contains ephedrine!!! [crowd gasps in horror in the background.] When I used it in 2002, I was using a sports supplement. When the FDA banned it last year (in 2004), I became the possessor of an illegal substance. When the Court overturned the FDA ban, I was an upstanding citizen again. Then the FDA declared that my 20 mg ephedrine was greater than the amount in the court case, and was illegal, and presto-chango, I’m a criminal again.

And this has been the history of steroids and sports supplements. The non-steroidal Androstendione which was available in every health and vitamin store a few years ago, all of a sudden disappeared because the FDA arbitrarily decided that since it was only “one step away” from a steroid, it is now illegal. However, DHEA, which is two steps away from a steroid, is still OK (for now…stock up while supplies last….)The steroids that Jose Canseco mentions being used in MLB were by and large completely legal in 1980. Many of them are still legal in much of the world, including industrialized nations such as Germany and Holland. Some (Fina) can be made of 100% legal substances in your kitchen. Others are legal as veterinary substances.

The history of Sports is the history of going the extra mile and being slightly better than anyone and everyone else. Athletes give up much of their personal lives and incur a great personal cost in training. They regulate what they eat. They take vitamin supplements such as Calcium. They take Glutamine to prevent muscle breakdown. They take Milk Thistle and ALA to keep their livers healthy. They take Glucosomine to help repair their stressed joints, and if they’re in trouble, they get shots from their doctors. Some take “stacks” to raise metabolism and speed weight-loss (like my illegal aspirin-caffeine-ephedrine stack). They use Creatine as a muscle volumizer and NO2 to increase muscle pump, while downing extra-heavy whey-protein isolate shakes to increase food to muscle cells. Somewhere along the line Congress is going to find out that many use insulin to increase food nutrition entering the muscle cells as well. Some use 2-step-away prohormones like DHEA, others used 1-step-away-prohormones.’

And yes, some use steroids.

Yes, the bar is constantly raised. In the effort to be bigger, better, stronger, greater. And if anyone thinks that taking steroids means you take a pill and you’re suddenly Hulk, they are sadly misinformed. Guys who take steroid injections and just ‘wait’ for the effects find themselves fat and tired. An athlete who has chosen to use steroids will be working his butt off 5-6 days a week in grueling workouts. There is no ‘free ride’ by using steroids.

It is amazing, isn’t it? If someone goes to Beverly Hills and forks over $10,000 to a surgeon to have 40 pounds of lard sucked out of their gut in a two-hour operation, that is not only legal, it’s indicative of being One of the Beautiful People. But if you work your tail off during a 12-week steroid cycle to reduce your body fat from 15% to 6% through arduous workouts, well…..”that’s illegal! That’s immoral! That’s just not right!!!! We must punish baseball players!”

Actually, it seems a hell of a lot more honest to me.Of course, why stop at baseball players? Does anyone really believe thatfthe models on the cover of Mens fitness magazines get that way from situps and spinach? Have they asked the Governor of California how he got that big? Wake up, folk: when you outlaw a substance, you don’t make it go away….you make it go underground. Anyone remember Prohibition?

What’s more important, is that no one has been able to tell me just who is so harmed by an individual athlete’s choice to juice that it requires federal robocops. Have these sports figures killed anyone? Assaulted anyone? Robbed anyone? Maimed anyone? Can you point to any damage they have caused? ?

There are those who will say that when young people emulate these guys, they are hurt. But that’s like saying that NASCAR should be responsible for kids who drive fast , that McDonalds should be responsible for obese slobs who sit and eat Big Macs every day, and that Clint Eastwood should be responsible for a kid who shoots someone.

If the Players are upset, or the union, or the fans, or the owners, they have immediate remedies and avenues. If they have chosen not to pursue them, perhaps Congress should realize they’re barking up the wrong tree.We don’t need Congress to decide who should be and shouldn’t be our sports heroes. We’ll do that for ourselves, thank you..”


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Massachusetts Highway Bureaucrat is Clueless...

My award for the most ridiculous, petty, ivory-tower Fiat pronounced by a Bureaucrat goes to Louisa Paiewonsky, the Massachusetts Highway Commissioner, who has determined that signs, flags, ribbons, and sheets welcoming troops home must all come down from highway overpasses.

The welcome-home signs have sprung up all over Massachusetts (as well as other parts of the country.) Home-made and heartfelt, they are a visible reminder of the Human connection between troops serving halfway around the world and the communities and families that anxiously await their return.

But, according to Ed Abell of the MHD, "Homemade signs and other items posted on overpasses pose a potential safety hazard to vehicles on roadways..."

Yeah, well deer crossing the road, branches blowing off of trees, and distracting commerical signs 'pose a potential safety hazard.' But Perfection and Utopia are not options. "Safety" is NOT the issue - everyone agrees that highways should be safe. The question is, "How much safer will the highway be by taking this action...and at what cost?"

MHD has yet to offer a *single* instance of a yellow ribbon, or a flag, or a sign flying off the overpass and causing an accident. By contrast, many instances of deer crosing the road and falling/blowing tree branches *have* caused accidents. By MHDs reasoning, the trees along the Highways should be leveled - because after all, they are a 'potential' safety hazard. (I'm sure that would go over well with the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs....)

And its not surprising that these welcome home banners have stayed put - after all, the people placing them there have a vested interest in making sure they are readable, secure, and can withstand the elements. They *want* the signs to remain and be visible. No one pours their heart and soul into one of these signs and then does a half-ass job affixing it to a fence on an overpass in a haphazard manner.

The degree of bureaucratic presumption - and cluelessness - is best displayed by the MHD's own suggestions for 'alternatives.' They have offered to place Generic, state-approved signs in Rest Areas.

MHD specifically opposes 'home-made' signs - suggesting, with incredible arrogance, that the State can somehow do a better job of making a "Welcome Home, Daddy!' sign than a soldiers' family. It also completely escapes them that the purpose of the sign is NOT simply to convey Formal Information ("Have Your Passports Ready, Please take your LapTop out of its Case, and Welcome Home Soldiers...') Rather, it is a human expression of hope and thanks and wishfulness and prayer and longing...something no Bureaucracy can even begin to express.

You would think that with the crazy placement of a traffic light on Rte 2 around a blind bend near Fitchburg, multiple lane crossings at the merger of Storrow Drive Eastbound and Interstate 93, A Pandoras Box of forks on Soldiers Field Road, and a minefield of jersey barriers on any given block in Worcester, that Mass Highway would have something real to worry about.

Guess they'd rather pick a battle they think they can win.....