A League of Justice

It was a cool night in the bay as thousands of fans gathered in AT&T Park to witness one of the most acknowledged records in sports history be broken.  As Bonds walked to the plate, the many fans in attendance grew in excitement as they hoped Bonds would hit homerun number 756.  Bonds walked to the plate, black maple bat in hand, the raucous fans chanting his name.  Everyone in the stands hoping he would send the ball into the bay.  The pitcher through the ball where everyone in attendance wanted it and everyone knew where it was going after they heard the crack.  The only problem that now lies in that record is whether or not the means, by which Bonds acquired this feat, occurred through just means.  The question in baseball, as well as other sports, is whether or not performance enhancing drugs should be allowed?  Some believe that it is unfair and questions the integrity of the game that they love.  You must also consider the young athletes who will one day want to break Bonds’ record as well.  The problem that fans and athletes now face is not knowing who the beneficiary of an unfair advantage is.

Former San Francisco Giants outfielder and current home run record holder Barry Bonds. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Former San Francisco Giants outfielder and current home run record holder Barry Bonds. (Photo courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

In “A Theory of Justice”, John Rawls talks about justice as fairness, which is to have an equal right to the most extensive of basic liberty compatible with similar liberty for others.  Rawls writes, “The intuitive idea is that since everyone’s well-being depends upon a scheme of cooperation without which no one could have a satisfactory life, the division of advantages should be such as to draw forth the willing cooperation of everyone taking part in it. Yet this can be expected only if reasonable terms are proposed.  The two principles mentioned seem to be a fair agreement on the basis of which those better endowed, or more fortunate in their social position, neither of which we can be said to deserve, could expect the willing cooperation of others when some workable scheme is necessary condition of the welfare of all.  Once we decide to look for a conception of justice that nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance as counters in quest for political and economic advantage, we are led to these principles. They express the result of leaving aside those aspects of the social world that seem arbitrary from a moral point of view.”

Finding justice in what some may see as cheating may force a change in the rules, a change that some may not want to see.

“The intuitive idea is that since everyone’s well-being depends upon a scheme of cooperation without which no one could have a satisfactory life, the division of advantages should be such as to draw forth the willing cooperation of everyone taking part in it.”  Dale Murphy, a former outfielder and leader of the I Won’t Cheat Foundation, a group that’s means is to help rid sports of illegal drugs is someone who believes, “We need better testing, harsher punishments and people will decide not to get involved with performance enhancing drugs,” while there are others who disagree with him.

Former Atlanta Braves' outfielder and first baseman Dale Murphy prior to a game against the New York Meta at the Braves' Spring Training camp at Disney's Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Photo courtesy of  Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

Former Atlanta Braves’ outfielder and first baseman Dale Murphy prior to a game against the New York Meta at the Braves’ Spring Training camp at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Priddy/Four Seam Images)

Norman Fost, professor of pediatrics and bioethics at the University of Wisconsin, states that “We use cars and computers to make are work more efficient, we use caffeine, Viagra and alcohol to improve our performance and every athlete in recorded history has used performance enhancing drugs,” talking about herbs used in the past by some cultures to improve their performance in battle.  When we consider “A Theory of Justice”, what can be taken from Rawls is that for us to all reach fairness, and in this case the fairness of professional sports, what is taken by one athlete should be available to the other athletes.

With the current ban in professional sports, players still get away with taking these illegal substances.  There are too many ways for athletes to get these drugs and take them without anyone’s knowledge of it.  Unfortunately steroids and performance enhancing substances will always be present in pro sports.  So why not control something that is dangerous to the athletes that make up the league.  Put the drugs in hands of doctors that have the players’ best interest, not in the hands of people in Tijuana, Mexico, that are looking to make money.

“The two principles mentioned seem to be a fair agreement on the basis of which those better endowed, or more fortunate in their social position, neither of which we can be said to deserve, could expect the willing cooperation of others when some workable scheme is necessary condition of the welfare of all.”  Those opposed to allowing steroids in sport, would say that if professional sport leagues were to allow its players to take these drugs then the integrity of the game would be in question. Bud Selig, the commissioner of Major League Baseball has made it known that he wants the playing field to be level by banning these drugs, and performance enhancing drugs would be a disservice to the players that played before the steroid era.  This is the same league that has a teams with a pay roll two to three times that of other teams in the league and a player in Alex Rodriguez who has a contract worth more than an entire teams payroll.  Is that fair to the other teams and fans in the league?

The game of today is not comparable to that of its history.  The field in which the game has been played over time has changed.  For records to be comparable the players would have to be playing on the same fields in the same conditions and that has not happened.  In 1920 the United States put a ban on the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol.  What ended this ban was the finding that more negative was brought out after the substance was taken away.  If a market was made for steroids, and the ban was lifted you could reduce the negative risks that were a cause of their ban.  As the league currently stands, there is a rule that does not allow for performance enhancing drugs in the game.  The question is why that rule is in place, and what should be done in order to change that rule?

“Once we decide to look for a conception of justice that nullifies the accidents of natural endowment and the contingencies of social circumstance as counters in quest for political and economic advantage, we are led to these principles. They express the result of leaving aside those aspects of the social world that seem arbitrary from a moral point of view.”  What critics fear about performance enhancing drugs are the health concerns that are associated with them.  The reason for athletes to take steroids is to, “hasten the repair of muscle strain and prolong workouts,” wrote journalist Blythe Bernhard.

Like many drugs there are side effects.  “Initial side effects include acne, hair growth and increased aggression known as roid rage.”  Much has been said about the danger when taking these substances.  When in actuality the sport in itself is more dangerous than any drugs one may be taking.  From 2006-2008 one hundred and thirteen concussions occurred in the National Hockey League, according to Sarah Kwak of Sports Illustrated.  “High school football players alone suffer 43,000 to 67,000 concussions per year, though the true incidence is likely much higher, as more than 50% of concussed athletes are suspected of failing to report their symptoms,” wrote Sean Gregory.

If we all were worried about the health of the athletes we wouldn’t be paying for the tickets and tuning in on the television set to support the games.  One way the leagues can take care of its players is by controlling steroids and other currently banned substances.  Making sure the athletes knew what they were taking and how to take it.  Professional sports would be able to pay doctors to research the safest and most beneficial substances.  We must consider the health of the young athletes as well.  The effects on children development are known and should not be tolerated in any circumstances.  A harsh penalty would be placed on athletes under a certain age as well as a coach or adult that is found giving the substances to the young athletes.  The fairness of the league would not come into question as the playing field would be even, and the safety of the athletes would be at a higher standard once these changes were made.

I wonder how big a fan of professional sports John Rawls was.  If he were a fan, he would have witnessed the last few years of professional baseball that was not burdened by the steroid era.  If Bud Selig were to consider Rawls’ ideals the league would benefit exponentially and legitimize a game that has been tarnished the last two decades.  One of the most desirable goals in society is justice, and in the MLB and other professional sports, fairness is the backbone of sport.  If you were to take away the backbone of the game, fairness, or to take away fairness from society, you would fall short of justice, and the goals of sport and society would not be accomplished.  Rawls would want those in power of competitive sport to consider only principles of justice and others closely related to them.  Rawls says, “We must recognize the limited scope of justice as fairness and of the general type of view that it exemplifies.  How far its conclusions must be revised once these other matters are understood cannot be decided in advance.” Finding justice in what some may see as cheating may force a change in the rules, a change that some may not want to see.

Bernhard, Blythe. “Steroids are helpful, harmful.” St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO) 15 Jan. 2010: Newspaper Source. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010.

Gregory, Sean. “The Problem with Football. (Cover story).” Time 175.5 (2010): 36-43. Academic  Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010.

Katz, Jefferey. “All Things Considered.” Intelligence Squared U.S. PBS.2008 Radio.

Dir. Bob Costas. NPR. January 23 2008.

Kwak, Sarah. “Heads, You Lose.” Sports Illustrated 110.26 (2009): 34. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010.

Rawls, John “A Theory of Justice.” A World of Ideas Eight Edition. Lee Jacobus. Boston.        Beford/St. Martins. 2010.233-244 (Print)

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One thought on “A League of Justice

  1. very cool article my friend

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