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JANUARY 23, 2008

ADDING ASTERISKS

* This record has been deleted due to cheating.

So we stripped Ben Johnson and Marion Jones of their medals because they tested positive for anabolic steroids. Naturally, you have to take away someone’s medal if they cheat, right?  Certainly you have to take away someone’s accolades if they cheat, right? It’s a given that if you use anabolic steroids, which is against the rules, then you don’t get to keep your awards.

Well, the answer is …that depends on how inconvenient it will be to take those awards away from you.

Think about it for a second.

Marion Jones and Ben Johnson lost their Olympic gold medals, but the members of their relay teams were simply “encouraged” to give back their medals. Theoretically, those people didn’t cheat, but they were still encouraged by the United States Olympic Council, although they don’t really have jurisdiction over that.

The results from the relay don’t stand…but the medals for the non-cheaters aren’t necessarily forfeit; that’s where things get a bit murky.

For example, the IOC doesn’t let the track results stand for a 4 person relay when someone is caught cheating, but now that major League Baseball knows that several records (involving home runs mostly) were set using steroids, will they stand? Will the infamous asterisk* be added to it? What will it say at the bottom of the page where the *asterisk is defined?

*This record set using performance-enhancing drugs?

What else would we need asterisks to denote? How about advances in technology? I mean…take a look at the pictures of the guy running the worlds first 4-minute mile…he did it in DRESS SHOES, not running shoes. Certainly that needs an asterisk, right? Or how about the fact that our modern homerun records were all set with baseballs wound more tightly, which fly further off a bat..and have more tightly stitched seams (making a curveball more difficult to control)…and are hit out of parks that are MUCH smaller than they were in the 50’s and 60’s?

How many asterisks would we need?*

*A lot.

Charles Staley said that cheating is defined as doing something that nobody else is doing…it’s not a perfect definition, but it’s relevant. And using that definition, is anyone really cheating?*

*No.

And what about this: If the IOC takes away the placing from the team who took first, and moves every other team up a place, then does that set a precedent for other sporting organizations? The IOC did not let Ben Johnson’s record stand, nor any relay results involving an athlete found doping. But is that practical in all sports?

I don’t think so.

I don’t even think it’s really even practical to do it in the Olympics, honestly.
Are they going to take away Clemens’ Cy Young Awards, as Curt Schilling suggested? Then what? Give it to the runner up? Or, maybe the day after the Super Bowl, if they find a tainted blood test, they give the Lombardi trophy to the other team? What if the player wasn’t even that good, or that influential? Perhaps if a quarterback or running back is found using steroids, then they lose the game, but if it’s a defensive back, then they let it slide? Do they go to Disney World to collect the trophy from the winning team the next day?

Obviously, these are hypothetical (and silly) situations, but they’re questions that ultimately arise when you start having people drug tested after the fact, and then stripping them of their accolades. It’s unreasonable and unrealistic. I think that drug testing athletes, adding asterisks, and otherwise impeding the progress of the game and its athletes…at this stage of the game is a losing proposition, on all fronts.



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