What if I were to tell you that there was a former Cy Young winner who was taking a controversial and powerful drug?
A drug that could prove dangerous to him in the long run and has been linked to organ damage? A drug that other players who have used it say gives them a feeling of invulnerability? A drug that experts are wary of for athletes because its long term effects when taken regularly aren’t known? A drug that is injected into the buttocks. A drug that, despite all of this, the player uses because it helps him recover from injury, soreness and fatigue and helps him get back on the field?
Why, I hope you would say nothing, because as David Lennon of Newsday reports, it’s totally OK in Major League Baseball:
When Johan Santana said last week that he received an injection of Toradol, a powerful anti-inflammatory medication, to stay on schedule for his Opening Day start, it hardly raised eyebrows in the clubhouse.
The reason? Santana is not the only one to benefit from the drug, and its use is more common than people might think.
There is not some logical bright line between what is a horrible, terrible PED and what is an acceptable drug in the world of sports. We like to pretend there is, but really, there isn’t. The biggest difference is that some are on a banned list and some are not, and that Santana and others use Toradol under a physicians care and guys who take banned drugs don’t.
Ultimately, these drugs are allowing players to do what their body would not naturally allow them to do. Here, it’s ignoring pain that could keep them from playing or certainly playing well. With other drugs, it’s recovering from injury faster (HGH) or hitting a ball farther than they otherwise might (steroids). Either way, their performance is enhanced. Their natural state is altered by pharmaceuticals.
It would be awesome if we could approach some of the banned PEDs in this way and determine whether they present acceptable risks. Whether they serve a valuable purpose that, under a doctor’s care, don’t raise serious ethical concerns. But we just don’t roll that way in professional sports these days.