What Part of “Against the Law” Do You Not Understand?

With New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez’s admission to taking performance enhancing drugs, the whole issue of steroids in baseball has entered mainstream discourse again this week. I’m not much of a baseball fan, and frankly, I’m tired of the whole affair. However, there’s one part of the steroid discussion that drives me absolutely crazy.

Athletes, fans, and sports writers frequently argue that since baseball had no rules against steroids during what we now consider the “juiced era” players who fail drug tests cannot be punished. Going forward, these people argue, the league can suspend players who use illegal substances. But we can’t do anything about past transgressions because the collective bargaining agreement didn’t provide penalties.

Admittedly, I’m no lawyer, but when the laws of the country prohibit something, doesn’t it stand to reason that the sport shouldn’t allow it, even if it’s not expressly stated? I know professional sports organizations, owners, and athletes like to think they’re above the law, but they’re not.

In an an article today, FoxSports columnist Ken Rosenthal continues this line of reasoning. For the most part, I agree with Rosenthal’s suggestions. But then he trots out the “there was no rule” idiocy.

“Don’t tell me that steroids were against the law; baseball did not enact its own penalties until 2004,” Rosenthal writes.


So let me get this straight… no matter what you do, if the sport doesn’t outlaw it, then you get to continue earning millions?

Suppose it’s proven that a pitcher, long reverred for his lethal right arm, detonates a nuclear warhead in Des Moines, Iowa and kills 60,000 people. He admits his crime. If, for whatever reason, he isn’t incarcerated, can he still collect a paycheck for throwing fastball strikeouts?

Is Bud Selig, the commissioner of baseball, going to hold a press conference and say nothing could be done? Let’s tweak Selig’s recent statements on the Rodriguez situation to fit this hyperbolic example.

“What Nuke Johnson did was wrong and he will have to live with the damage he has done to his name and reputation,” Selig would say. “While Nuke deserves credit for publicly confronting the issue, there is no valid excuse for using weapons of mass destruction, and those who use them have shamed the game. It is important to remember that these recent revelations relate to pre-program activity. Under our current nuclear program, if you are caught using warheads and/or weaponized plutonomium, you will be punished. Since 2005, every player who has tested positive for such use has been suspended for as much as 50 games.”

Once again, as it’s painfully obvious, I’m not a lawyer. And the Rodriguez scenario is slightly different because he failed a test that was voluntary and supposedly anonymous.

But it seems logical to me that the laws of my country filter down to my place of employment. If you work for Random House, do they have to explicitly instruct that you’re not allowed to murder someone? If you’ve got a publishing contract with Penguin, does it have to state that you will get into trouble if you commit treason? If the rest of our society operates like baseball, then we’ll have to start including the entire federal, state, and local penal code into contracts.

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