A new article published this week “Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit, and the Body as Commodity, 1964-2007” in the journal LABOR: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas states the dated and obvious, that drug use, and in particular anabolic steroid use in sports, and this time specifically baseball, is a result of the lure of money.
In that paper (http://www.uta.edu/news/releases/2014/02/rose-baseball-steroids.php) the authors restates the obvious, this time in regards to baseball. They may as well have been talking about any amateur and professional sport, although the balance of the degree of money and power/recognition that drug use, or for that matter the use of any ergogenic aid, whether it be the use of drugs or procedures, confers can vary.
One of the co-authors, Sarah Rose, stated that “Baseball is representative of the fact that Americans increasingly live in an age of biotechnology in which bodily modification for profit has become the norm and, often, an unstated job requirement.”
So what’s new?
Three decades ago in my book “Drug Use & Detection in Amateur Sports, I wrote the following as part of the introduction:
There was a time, many years ago, when athletes were genuine amateurs competing mainly for their own pleasure. The rewards were likely to be small – seldom much more than the personal satisfaction that comes from winning.
The athlete today can rarely compete just for his own pleasure. He has become a political weapon, a proof of ideological or national superiority. He carries a nations pride into the competition, and the pressure upon him to win is intense.
Moreover the financial rewards – at least in the western nations – can be enormous. Contracts for product endorsements or professional sports can run into the millions.
Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the athlete is constantly looking for some way to improve his performance, to gain a competitive edge. In recent years, he has tended to rely more and more on drugs to give him that edge.
Drug use in sports, both amateur and professional, is just part of our societal malaise, where consumerism and our quest for money are our main quests and has no end because we’re made to feel that however much we have, it’s never enough.
So we covet what we don’t have or feel we want. We have our false gods in celebrities, that in themselves have no intrinsic value beyond that we give them, infinitely out of proportion to who they are.
Because of this societal malaise, people in turn, because it’s the “normal” thing to do, obsessively seek material goods and obsess about making as much money as they can so that we can afford everything that we as a society covet – the flawed dream of being rich beyond any needs or wants.
Our world has become a uni-dimensional world, a materialistic, hedonistic, carnivalesque pseudo-event that masquerades as life. And it’s the fact that we accept its coerced and manipulated values that is the basis of drug use in sports, and much more importantly the basis of a world where all is allowed in the name of materialism, and where consumer capitalism reigns supreme.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. We need to regain our ability to be authentic, to accept the realities of life and living, to understand what’s important, and not to go blindly into consumerism, a blind quest for money, and a relentless escapist search for novelty and social status. After all none of this offers a raison d’être for human existence and in fact diverts us from finding a realistic meaning to our lives.
“That’s right, it’s come to this,
yes it’s come to this,
and wasn’t it a long way down,
wasn’t it a strange way down?”
Leonard Cohen – Dress Rehearsal Rag