Someday, probably sooner than anybody expects, we won’t be having discussions about testing procedures or the chain of custody or a courier storing some athlete’s urine in his refrigerator for a weekend.
Someday, performance-enhancing drugs will be so commonplace that we’ll be reading glowing reviews of the new home run champ’s innovative HGH program or the latest gold medalist’s use of some new synthetic drug.
Someday, such substances will be regarded as an accepted and expected part of a top-flight training regimen, as a safe and necessary method for improving athletic performance.
Considering that we live in a society in which breast augmentation is epidemic and male enhancement commercials are a TV staple, it’s silly to suggest that we will continue to draw a line of righteous indignation for performance-enhancing drugs.
It’s human nature to strive for “improvement,” and we long ago disregarded the black mark that such artificial “enhancements” can leave on the soul. Sports has and always will be on the cutting edge of such boosts, and now that the general public is deciding that Mother Nature is inadequate, the way in which athletic enhancements are viewed will rapidly change.
So, yes, someday, performance-enhancing substances will be deemed safe for long-term consumption and will be regarded as no worse than eating a lot of spinach in an effort to grow muscles.
Until then, we are left to consider why somebody saw fit to store Ryan Braun’s drug-testing sample in his refrigerator for 44 hours. And to ponder the efficacy of Major League Baseball’s testing program. And to question the manner of justice being handed out by athletic organizations.
Braun became the first baseball player to successfully challenge a suspension under the sport’s PED-testing program, and considering the facts in the case there’s no way the suspension could have been upheld.
Yes, Braun was set free on a technicality, rather than absolved of wrongdoing. But it was the Mother of All Technicalities did I mention the courier kept Braun’s urine in his refrigerator for 44 hours? and it points out the “guilty until proven innocent” nature of these things.
Braun never will be free of the implications that accompany a failed drug test.
Even though baseball’s testing procedures were violated, even though the results were supposed to remain confidential through the end of the appeals process, even though he hadn’t gained any weight or muscle, he will wear a scarlet letter in the minds of the fans who still care about such things.
The number of such fans, predictably, is falling. Once upon a time, a couple years ago, the general public was concerned about the fact that baseball hadn’t addressed an obvious problem. Home run records were being shattered; hallowed numbers were being rendered irrelevant; Barry Bonds had an elephant-sized head.
Baseball’s belated reaction to all of this created a dilemma that never can be solved. The numbers aren’t going to be erased.
But since then, baseball has instituted a rigorous testing program and statistics have returned to more palatable levels, leaving the 10 years or so that began in the mid-1990s as an era requiring one giant asterisk.
That will be the legacy of baseball’s Steroids Era it was a time that happened and it was a time that will require explanation when future generations wonder what was the big deal.
Because, someday, the public won’t care about performance-enhancing drugs. And that time is coming sooner than you might think.
Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne