COMMENTARY | It was almost inevitable, but it's finally happened. A Detroit athlete has been linked (relatively tenuously) to performance-enhancing drugs. To tell you the truth, I don't care whether or not Jhonny Peralta used PEDs.
According to Tom Verducci of SI.com, Peralta's name was included in documents, but not linked to any specific PEDs, from Biogenisis that have exploded into MLB's latest PED scandal.
Verducci reports that Peralta has become the 12th major leaguer associated with Biogenisis. Other players implicated include Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Melky Cabrera.
The AP is reporting that Peralta denies ever using a PED. In a statement released through his attorney, Barry Boss, Peralta claimed, "anyone who says otherwise is lying."
Verducci reports that Peralta is the fifth client of ACES--the agency that represents Melky Cabrera, who received a 50-game suspension for violating MLB's drug policy--to be associated with the anti-aging clinic.
It's questionable if players linked directly to PEDs by the Biogenisis documents would face punishment from MLB, so it's unlikely that this information would result in Peralta serving any kind of suspension. However, the Tigers would miss a .239 hitter who hit 12 home runs and lacks range at shortstop--Peralta's stats from last year--much less than Verlander, Cabrera or Fielder.
Of course, it's important to look at what the long-term implications of this information will be for Peralta and the Tigers, but the information raises many questions for MLB to answer.
Why ban PEDs?
The one that is most prominent in my mind is, why do we care if professional athletes use PEDs?
Professional sports, at their heart, exist because they are entertaining. The public pays teams money to view grown men play a game better than they could ever hope to achieve. The teams then pay players vast sums of money to play the game.
The players earn more money when they're better at the game. Better players tend to win more games, which draws more fans. Everybody likes players to perform at the highest level humanly possible.
But what happens when guys realize their best isn't quite good enough to get that next contract?
They look for an edge. There's too much money at stake for many of them to stay within whatever rules currently exist.
And then what happens? Well, the players risk their long-term health for a short-term spike in production. The fans see players doing seemingly miraculous things, and the teams win more games.
There might be some moral problems with using foreign substances to improve a player's performance. But if you knew there was something out there that would make you better at your job, wouldn't you be tempted to try it?
As long as players are aware of the possible side effects of using, I'd argue that it should be their choice to use or not use.
I'm certainly not advocating introducing drugs to our nation's youth. Amateur sports (college and below, though there could be an argument against major college sports being amateur) are a learning experience for our young people. Winning is nice, but it's not the ultimate goal of high school and college sports.
Difficult to Police PED Use
Beyond the benefits the public gets from players using, it is nearly impossible to effectively police PEDs. It seems the users are always a step ahead of the testers.
The NFL, long lauded for its drug policy, still isn't testing for HGH. The recent news surrounding Lance Armstrong's admission to doping shows how sophisticated methods can become.
Did Peralta use PEDs? These documents don't seem to provide enough evidence to say yes. He denies using, but rare is the athlete who admits using the first time he or she is accused. Just look at Marion Jones or Lance Armstrong for examples of users who denied using, even after their careers were over.
Did Peralta use PEDs? I don't really care. I just want to see baseball players play baseball better than I could possibly play. If a player thinks he needs PEDs to get to that point, go for it.
Patrick McIntyre is a freelance sports writer who has followed the Tigers closely since 2000.
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