Now that baseball season is in full swing, what better time for Greater Paramus News and Lifestyle Magazine to take a long look at baseball's long and storied relationship with stimulants. If you're like me, you might have thought that steroids were baseball's biggest problem in terms of "performance-enhancing substances," but as this article points out, stimulant use is actually much more prevalent ("Barry Bonds, one of several big-name athletes tied to BALCO, reportedly tested positive last season not for steroids, but for amphetamines").
The article's well worth a quick read, if only for tales like these:
There used to be two coffee pots in each clubhouse, one labeled "regular" and one labeled "hot." Or sometimes it was "unleaded" and "leaded."
Baseball players quickly figured out what chemists know, that caffeine can ramp up the effectiveness of other substances. So they dumped a handful of greenies - so named, according to baseball lore, because the amphetamine Dexedrine came in green tablets - into a pot of coffee to kick it up a notch.
Although the baseball powers-that-be attempted to put the kibosh on decades of stimulant use by imposing a form of random drug testing, the power of the players union weakened the initial attempt to create a ban list identical to that used in the Olympics. There are 62 banned drugs for Olympic athletes; only 30 for baseball players.
But baseball players may have it a little worse than Olympic athletes, who are only in the spotlight sporadically:
There are reasons [baseball players use stimulants], of course. One is that baseball has the most grueling schedule in professional sports, grinding mind and body to a lethargic pulp with a numbing combination of night games and 7 a.m. wake-up calls and endless road trips in sweltering summer heat. Another is that, in the words of Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative founder Victor Conte, "stimulants work."
Finally, the article does include the requisite expert testimony making it clear that this kind of thing is very shady, no matter what the reason:
"I'm not going to get into semantics," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a doping expert from New York University. "(A stimulant) masks fatigue. It masks pain. Athletes talk about being 'in the zone.' This puts you in the zone. It makes you more aggressive, more alert. There is evidence it increases hand-eye coordination.
"All those things are performance-enhancing. It's performance not at a natural level. It's performance that has been altered by drugs."
It'd be easy to pithily suggest that drugs are just another in an array of technological advances, from sports medicine to equipment design, that enhance the performance of modern athletes. But of course, long term stimulant use is, uh, not so good for you, and no one here is suggesting that this is a good precedent for America's lumbering, bat-swinging role models to set for the kids who - ooops - are already getting hooked on stimulants thanks to their parents and doctors, so, uh, never mind. Let's start a stimulant-only baseball league and see how far we can smack that little white ball all over the place!