While doing my daily run around the world of sports last week, I came across a very interesting article written by Jeff Passan that you can find at Stimulants Gain Attention. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the piece was about.
Normally, I avoid all the talk of steroids and performance enhancing drugs (PED). Sure, I sometimes delve into the topic, I can’t avoid it entirely in my line of work, but honestly most of the time I try to pay attention to what is happening on the field and let the legal wrangling and the blowhards deal with PED’s. However, Mr. Passan’s column was so illuminating I thought I simply had to break it down. Here are some of the highlights of the piece.
1- 108 players in 2009 were awarded a free pass for drug use. What do I mean? 108 major league players were granted a TUE or Therapeutic Use Exemption to take drugs on the banned list. These 108 baseball player all were being treated for ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That’s nearly nine percent of all players, more than double the population at large. “It looks fishy,” said Dr. Ari Tuckman, the VP of the Attention Deficit Disorder Association. “It doesn’t mean it is, but it looks that way.”
2- In 2006 there were 28 players granted a TUE.
3- In 2007 MLB started testing for stimulants.
4- In 2007 the number of TUE’s quadrupled to 103.
You do the math.
5- Though baseball says they have tightened the rules for TUE, in 2008 the number of players on the list increased from 103 to 106. “A healthy percentage of applications for new TUE’s was rejected,” MLB Players Association director Michael Weiner said
6- ADHD drugs are not steroids. However, they do bring a heightened sense of alertness, and an inner calmness, two traits that clearly might have just a wee bit of an effect on a hitter. “In the most general sense, almost everybody does better on a stimulant,” Dr. Tuckman said, “which is something Starbucks and Coca-Cola figured out long ago.”
So what do we have here? Well, approximately 15 percent of all major league players are using prescription medication that could be said, in the least, to give the user a more heightened ability to focus. Given the requirements of the game, a game that goes on day after day for six months, you often hear that players are more mentally tired than physically worn down. Do you think a little pick me up in the form of a TUE leading to medication might help? I’m not saying that there aren’t some players who legitimately might have a medically condition, but double the rate of the general population? To say that seems unlikely would be kind.
In the end, this problem will never go away. Those that want to cheat will likely always be one step ahead of those that are trying to catch them. Those that can skirt by legally will likely do everything they can to gain that little extra edge. And to be truthful, is there really any difference between having a TUE or stealing signs on the field? You might even be able to make a cogent argument that stealing signs is actually worse because it informs you how the play will develop (if you take a drug, you still have to read, react and perform). I don’t know if there is any way to put all of this “drug” stuff behind us, but if there is I’d be 100 percent behind it because for far too long the story hasn’t been about what happens on the field, it’s been about what has happened in the doctor’s office.
By Ray Flowers