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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Steroids: a Symptom of a Much Bigger Problem

What goes up must come down – the law of gravity; for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – Newton’s Laws of Motion; the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers, regardless of their relative motion or of the motion of the source of the light – the Theory of Relativity; given the right chemistry, men and women will fall in love with one another – the laws of attraction; and an unrepentant nation engaging in illegal/unscrupulous activity will produce lawless inhabitants – the laws of sowing and reaping.

Was anyone surprised that George J. Mitchell’s 21-month investigation into steroid use by Major League Baseball (MLB) players resulted in a parade of the league’s top-tier players, including perennial all-stars Andy Pettitte, Mark McGwire (retired), Sammy Sosa, and seven-time Cy Young winner, Roger Clemens? The Mitchell Report exposed the love affair that MLB has had with performance enhancing drugs; however, what is implied in the report is much more disconcerting: First, American culture devours today’s athletic heroes at any fledgling sign of decline and it will dispatch the dreaded Inquisition against athletes who go through a drought. I mean fans do not give aging/deteriorating athletes an opportunity for a graceful decent into retirement or permit a player to work themselves out of an extended slump. Consequently, many of these slumping superstars have been ambushed by a compulsive disorder to keep the competitive edge, and performance enhancing drugs have masked their inability to excel on natural talent and ability.

Second, it doesn’t take a historical genius to recognize that America was born in sin, shaped in iniquity and to this day, continues to engage in unethical practices. Notwithstanding its revolutionary birth pangs and the slave roots of its economic dominance, we do not have to reach back that far to notice the trend of deception and illicit behavior that has dominated the political landscape of this country since the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Just in my lifetime, only two presidents since John F. Kennedy has served this nation without being directly embroiled in a scandal: Gerald Ford, who succeeded Richard Nixon after Watergate and Jimmy Carter, who ironically is given an honorable mention in one poll that named the ten worst Presidents in American history.

· Lyndon Johnson lied to the American public about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, escalating the Vietnam War;

· Richard Nixon authorized the Watergate break-in and then sanctioned the destruction of the evidence;

· Ronald Reagan was involved in the Iran Contra Scandal where the United States sold arms to Iran and used the illicit funds to run a secret military campaign funding the anti-Sandinista rebels, the Contras, in Nicaragua. He has also been alleged to have conspired in the October Surprise, where a deal was negotiated with Iran that would have delayed the release of the American hostages until after the 1980 elections, sealing his electoral thrashing of Jimmy Carter;

· George HW Bush was elected President in 1988 on the strength of his now infamous “Read my lips” campaign promise – “No New Taxes,” but he eventually broke that promise. He is also alleged to have been the architect behind the Reagan-era October Surprise;

· Bill Clinton spent most of his first term avoiding questions about Whitewater, a failed business venture of the Whitewater Development Corporation. And who can forget the uproar over his extra-marital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, where impeachment proceedings were brought up against him for lying about it?

· George “Dubya” Bush…Where should I start? The WMD lie that became the War in Iraq? The Downing Street Memo? The leak scandal outing Valerie Plame? Illegal domestic spying? The Middle East Roadmap that carved up Israel? I can keep going, but you do get the point, don’t you?

Last, the United States has deigned a War on Drugs since it was officially declared by President Nixon in 1971. Since that time, America has spent more than $1 trillion in the war, made 38 million arrests and seized thousands of tons of narcotics. However, today drugs are cheaper, stronger and more easily available for teenagers.

So a country that is intoxicated on its sporting teams; tolerant of hypocritical leaders; fabricating a “so-called” War on Drugs, which allows certain drugs in the marketplace, like nicotine, which kills more than 300,000 per year; sanctions more than 1 million murders of the unborn per year; permits all kinds of debauchery under the thin vale of Free Speech, will eventually see itself rot from within. Consequently, illegal steroid use is not the problem; it’s only a symptom of what is wrong with our society today. America is suffering from a hemorrhage of ethics starting at the top.

Mike, a good friend of mine, recently remarked that he is concerned that he lives in a country where universities offer ethics courses. After thinking about his statement, I understand why some points of ethics must be taught, but really, does anyone have to teach a businessperson that a bribe is prohibited, or teach a contracting official that a kick-back is illegal; or teach the President of the United States that lying betrays the public trust?

Therein lies America’s real problem, no pun intended!

So as I analyzed the quality of players who have been snared in the Mitchell report, I wonder, as my good friend Marthell remarked the other day, if Roger Clemens, a great white baseball player, will receive the same scrutiny as Barry Bonds, a great black baseball player whose homerun record has been brought into question as a result of his alleged steroid use. Oh, did I forget to mention that the double standard of racism seems to still bear its ugly head in this country as well?

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