Time to shout down faux out­rage over PEDS

SundayXtra - - SPORTS MLB - By Sam Mellinger

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Miguel Te­jada was worth it.

Drugs and all, he was worth it. Worth his $ 1.1 mil­lion salary, worth the ros­ter spot that would’ve gone to some­one able to play more than 53 games, and worth the tem­po­rary dis­trac­tion and man­u­fac­tured “out­rage” from news of his 105- game sus­pen­sion for am­phet­a­mine use with­out base­ball ap­proval.

Te­jada was worth it be­cause he helped the Royals win. Maybe that sounds cal­lous. Maybe that sounds jaded. Maybe you don’t want to read that be­cause, well, what about the chil­dren? Please. Te­jada helped the Royals win. He hit .288 in 167 plate ap­pear­ances be­fore a calf in­jury last week ended his sea­son. From a cold busi­ness per­spec­tive, he was a good in­vest­ment. If any­thing, the sus­pen­sion helps the Royals be­cause he was al­ready hurt and now they don’t owe the bal­ance of his salary — some­where around $ 250,000.

Gen­eral man­ager Day­ton Moore won’t say any of this, even if he wanted to. No­body with the Royals will. That’s not how th­ese drug sus­pen­sions are sup­posed to work.

We’re sup­posed to be out­raged and of­fended and sum­mon as much self- right­eous in­dig­na­tion as pos­si­ble, ask­ing: WHAT WAS HE THINK­ING? HOW COULD HE DO THIS? TO US? Please. Te­jada did it to play the game he loves. To play the sport that made him rich and fa­mous and ad­mired. To do the thing that brought him more joy than any­thing else.

Would you take a pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion to play in the big leagues? I would.

Te­jada sat out all of last sea­son, un­wanted by any­one in the ma­jors. The Royals bet what amounted to a low ante game of poker on him: less than Felipe Paulino’s salary for a man ad­mired by his team­mates, and who tem­po­rar­ily filled an enor­mous hole at sec­ond base.

As it turns out, Te­jada was us­ing Ad­der­all, a com­monly pre­scribed med­i­ca­tion for nar­colepsy and at­ten­tion- deficit dis­or­der. Te­jada is said to have a pre­scrip­tion for it, along with 16 mil­lion Amer­i­cans. He does not, how­ever, have an ex­emp­tion from Ma­jor League Base­ball for the drug and as such is sub­ject to a sus­pen­sion.

Whether Te­jada’s use was med­i­cally le­git­i­mate or not, ex­emp­tions for Ad­der­all have long been a loop­hole through base­ball’s drug pol­icy. Last sea­son, MLB is­sued ex­emp­tions for 116 play­ers — which would rep­re­sent a much higher oc­cur­rence of ADD among ma­jor- league base­ball play­ers than the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion — al­low­ing them to use pre­scribed med­i­ca­tions with­out penalty. Te­jada’s ex­emp­tion had ex­pired.

The sus­pen­sion will cost Te­jada money and em­bar­rass­ment. He is a six- time All- Star and the AL MVP in 2002 but pleaded guilty to ly­ing to Congress in 2009 about what he knew of per­for­mance- en­hanc­ing drug use in base­ball. He knew the penal­ties but did it any­way.

It’s im­pos­si­ble to get in­side a man’s head, but it’s easy to imag­ine Te­jada feel­ing as if he needed a boost to play in the big leagues again. Who can’t un­der­stand that? And who doesn’t think that what­ever game they watch to­day or this week won’t in­clude a player do­ing the same thing Te­jada was do­ing?

Thank­fully, the faux out­rage about PED use is be­ing slowly shouted down by rea­son. As much as base­ball ( with jus­ti­fi­ca­tion) talks about hav­ing the tough­est drug pol­icy in North Amer­i­can sports and as much as base­ball ( with delu­sion) talks about be­ing in a post- steroids era, smart fans know there is no such thing.

There’s ev­i­dence that the an­cient Greeks used PEDs, and back then they weren’t com­pet­ing for mil­lions of dollars.

This is the sports world we all helped cre­ate. Penal­ties and test­ing can con­tinue to grow tougher, but we are years from the risk- re­ward equa­tion bal­anc­ing out — and judg­ing by how we con­sume sports, fans in gen­eral want it this way.

The con­ver­sa­tion about drugs, at least in base­ball, has shifted in re­cent months to­ward com­pet­i­tive bal­ance rather than records or higher moral stan­dards. On that end, Te­jada is be­ing sus­pended for the same thing many play­ers from gen­er­a­tions ago con­sid­ered part of their daily rou­tine — club­house cof­fee pots were la­beled “leaded” if they in­cluded am­phet­a­mines, and “un­leaded” if it was just caf­feine.

Look, Te­jada know­ingly broke a rule with a con­se­quence, and for that he gets no sym­pa­thy.

But we can also be smart enough to un­der­stand the con­text, es­pe­cially for Te­jada’s crime, the rough equiv­a­lent of petty theft. There is enor­mous money and fame at stake for Ma­jor League Base­ball, and with­out penal­ties to match. The sys­tem en­cour­ages cheat­ing, es­pe­cially for those, like the ag­ing Te­jada, on the fringe of the big- league life.

Be­fore he got caught, he played a lit­tle more in the big leagues, made more than a half- mil­lion dollars and helped the Royals win.

That was worth it. For both sides. Be­cause that’s how base­ball is set up.

— The Kansas City Star

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