Players as PED police: Now there's a novel idea
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Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout said on a New York radio station Monday that players caught using performance-enhancing drugs should be banned from the game for life.
That's harsh. Everybody deserves a second chance, maybe a third. This is America. Short of killers, everybody should get extra chances.
However, Trout's suggestion plays into something I have been thinking for a while: Maybe it's time to turn Major League Baseball's drug program over to the players association.
Players used to be reluctant to call out fellow union members. Now, though, in a major culture shift more and more are speaking out against cheaters.
The union's leadership formerly did what came naturally. For decades it resisted drug testing by citing invasion of privacy, resisted rules against using and resisted punishment for being caught.
But now an increasing number of players, perhaps a majority, sound like they have undergone an attitude adjustment. They might even care about drug use more than do fans who dig the long ball and owners who profit from the long ball.
Players are indicating that they're tired of an unbalanced playing field, tired of losing jobs to users and tired of cheaters winning big contracts, major awards and World Series championships.
MLB also changed direction and is attempting to clean up the game — but why not let the union take the lead in designing a drug policy and being responsible for enforcing it?
Sunday at the White Sox game I posed that question to a former player. He looked at me like I was crazy and gave me several reasons why.
Except, none of what he said could be interpreted to mean the idea wouldn't work. Mostly what he said — including calling Commissioner Bud Selig an insulting name — was that it never would be accepted by management.
That's how most people respond. Without even pondering whether my proposal makes sense, they simply say club owners never would turn over the drug program to the players.
Nobody is asking them to completely surrender to the union on this issue. They would still be involved in the process and have veto power while sharing the costs.
The players, however, know more than anyone what's going on with performance-enhancing drugs but don't take that to mean that owners, general managers, managers, coaches or others inside the game deserve a pass for not having done more to flush PEDs from the game sooner than later.
Still, nobody could be more aware of abuses than the players who reside inside clubhouses. If they didn't know who was using, they at least had suspicions.
So what would be so wrong with players deciding whether substances sold over the counter at GNC should be banned?
What would be so wrong with players deciding whether 50 games is an appropriate punishment for a first offense or, as Trout contends, a lifetime ban is?
What would be wrong with players deciding to what extent a player should be allowed to risk future health in exchange for financial wealth?
The players could establish a program in which using PEDs has the stigma of cheating them as well as the game. They would feel freer to identify players who need to be investigated.
A good guess is that under any system there will be a game within the game in which rules are established and a certain percentage of players will attempt to beat them.
But if players like Mike Trout are empowered to impose peer pressure and have policing power to back it up ...
Well, that just might have a better chance of working than what's in place now.
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