Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Your tax dollars at waste

Maybe those of you who understand sports can explain why I'm wrong.

As many of you are no doubt aware, the baseball player Roger Clemens has been accused of using steroids and other performance enhancing drugs. He's been testifying before Congress about these allegations, and recent news is that it seems he was lying about it and may end up facing criminal perjury charges.

What I want to know is Why the hell is any of this happening and why is Congress wasting our time and money on this nonsense???

As far as I know, there are no laws against using steroids or HGH. I can go and take them until I explode without violating any laws.

Major League Baseball has rules against players taking performance-enhancing drugs. This is not in question, and I don't even disagree with the rule. But that's all it is - one corporation's rules regarding the conduct of its own employees (which is what these players are, right?)

If I start a corporation and require my employees to wear yellow name-tags, and one employee refuses, I can fire him. If it's in his contract, I might even be able to sue for breach of contract to recover some kind of damages. But that's where it stops. There's no way this person could (or should) be jailed, and Congress certainly shouldn't get involved.

But that's what we're seeing here. MLB has a rule against steroid use. Clemens was accused. So MLB should conduct an investigation and depending on the result, they can fire Clemens and maybe sue him for breach of contract. If the investigation's results are in dispute, then maybe they should go to binding arbitration, or a local court (e.g. a wrongful termination suit.) But for some reason, it is going way way beyond that. Somehow, Congress - the supreme legislative branch of the United States - has gotten involved in what is still an MLB internal affair. They are having hearings before committees all over the place, treating this as if it was a matter of national security. And for what? Because a baseball player is accused of violating league rules? That's it?

And they're going to pursue criminal charge against him because of what? Because he was caught in a lie (so the committee says) while testifying about this BS that should never have begun in the first place?

What's next? Federal tribunals for people accused of jaywalking or spitting on the sidewalk? At least in that case, a law was broken.

This is yet another incident in a long chain of prosecutorial abuses by our legal system. Somebody in Congress likes baseball and doesn't like Clemens. So he sets up a show-trial, with no actual charges, solely for the purpose of forcing Clemens to either lie or make a career-destroying statement (or even better, both).

But it's not all that surprising. It's now a tradition to send unpopular people to jail on trumped up charges. Lewis Libby and Martha Stewart were also convicted of perjury regarding crimes that were never committed. And this won't be the last case either - you can be certain that in a few months, some other unpopular public figure will be similarly railroaded.


Anonymous said...

Came to you via a catholic reader,I was aware 50 years ago Congress interviewed Ted Williams,Mickey Mantle and Casey Stengel on the anti trust exemption.The reason;they're star f***ers

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you are just venting, or if there are some aspects to this that you don't know, and want to know.

In the end, you may just disagree, but here is their reasoning (as I understand it):

Major League Baseball operates under an Anti-Trust Exemption from the Federal Government. The government allows MLB to be the sole provider of this type of content, without trying to bust up their monopoly. Obviously, this is very valuable to MLB. In return Congress retains a certain amount of oversight. Likewise, the government has an interest in keeping baseball "fair," and in sending a message to the nation's youth. One may disagree with that message, but due to it's anti-trust given oversight, the government has that right.

As for MLB's drug policy, it has been a TOTAL JOKE for decades, and only recently, under great pressure from Congress and elsewhere, MIGHT be beginning to seriously enforce what they have claimed to believe all these years. So the Congress is sending a strong message to MLB that they wish the recent reforms to drug testing policy to have teeth.

Understand, MLB's drug testing polices, and penalties for rules violations are pitiful compared to all other professional sports, and probably almost any other organization. THe players union held them completely at bay, and MLB went along with it, probably knowing what was happening.

As for the fact that during the hearing you mentioned, one party sided with Clemens and the other party sided against him, yeah, that was disgraceful. But we can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Shamino said...

Thanks. I was unaware of this antitrust exemption. That's what I get for never caring about professional sports.

I'm pretty sure I oppose this exemption, too. It seems to me like just more government getting involved where it doesn't belong.

If MLB is abusing its monopoly power (say, by pressuring other leagues out of existence), then they should be punished or broken up. If they're not abusing their power, then there is no need for an exemption. (Antitrust law doesn't outlaw monopolies, it only punishes them if they abuse their power.)

But that, I assume, is something that was over and done with a long time ago and is no longer a worthwhile debate topic.

As for performance enhancing drug use, I couldn't care less either way. As long as the playing field is level (everybody takes them or nobody takes them), then the game is still fair.

As for players being role models for children, I'm afraid that went out the window a long time ago. When you consider how players in many different sports always seem to be in trouble with the law (and for much worse things than steroid use), I don't think it will ever be possible to put that genie back in the bottle. Sadly, I think the best parents can do at this point is to teach their kids that ball players (like movie stars and musicians) are no better than the rest of society, and are often worse, and that they should not be seen as role models.

David Gaines said...

The antitrust exemption MLB enjoys has already been mentioned here, so scratch that.

The other issue is that it is, in fact, NOT okay to use steroids or human growth hormone unless you have a prescription. HGH is particularly serious because it's a controlled substance, the prescribing of which is regulated even more strictly than non-scheduled prescription medications. None of the players involved in this scandal, to my knowledge, had prescriptions for these substances, and in any event they certainly weren't using them in a manner consistent with the indications for which prescriptions are allowed. HGH in particular is prescribed rarely and only in very specific & medically necessary circumstances. It's potentially quite dangerous and, frankly, anyone who uses it for the purposes these clowns are is an idiot.

Aside from everything else, baseball is, for better or worse, America's historical national game and an integral part of the national fabric and culture for well over a hundred years now. Also, this is just an abysmally poor example being set for kids (you never played organized baseball as a kid, presumably, so you may not relate to this) nationwide, at a time when that is precisely what is not needed from a critical mass of public figures.

"And that's all I have to say about that." --Forrest Gump