"I am further of opinion that it would be better for us to have [no laws] at all than to have them in so prodigious numbers as we have." ~ Michel de Montaigne
Pumping Legislative Iron
Americans can feel better about the state of professional sports now that the US Congress has gotten in the game. Athletes intent on "cheating" the "public" should be quaking in their cleats, because Congress will be flexing its powerful legislating muscles soon. At issue is the use of performance-enhancing drugs (anabolic steroids, human growth hormone, etc.) by modern-day gladiators who perform in rings, on courts, gridirons and diamonds.
The Congressmen are concerned that these sports stars' conduct may be sending the youth of our country the wrong message. But can that message be any worse than the ones politicians are sending themselves? Surely few parents want their child to grow up to be an overgrown spoiled brat like Jose Canseco, but do they really want them to grow up to be pathological liars or sociopaths like Clinton and Bush?
Congressmen have taken an interest in the welfare of our youth in the past. Gerry Studds, a former member of the House of Representatives, admitted to charges (1983) that he had had sex with a male Congressional page, who was all of 17 years old. The voters of Mr. Studds' (we should ask the former page if the name is well deserved) district were so impressed with his concern for American male youth that they re-elected him five times. Finally Mr. Studds decided to put himself out to pasture and retired in 1995. It was rumored that he was eyeing a position as a locker room attendant for the Oakland Athletics.
Young, wayward males aren't the only ones who have attracted attention in Washington DC. Long before Monica Lewinsky experienced puberty, politicians have also shown an interest in young, "helpless" females. In 1980, Congressman Dan Crane (a married father of six) of Illinois admitted to an affair with a 17-year-old female Congressional page. Apparently he was no stud (pun intended); the voters in his district gave him the boot following his admission. Georgia Republican Newt Gingrich (remember him?) who fervently argued for the expulsion of Crane and Studds in 1983, later had his own bout with marital infidelity in the '90s, leaving his (second) wife of 18 years for one of his staffers who was 23 years his junior. What was that saying about people who live in glass houses?
But this is not solely about concern for the youth of this great nation; it's also about illegal drug use by professional athletes. While Mark and Jose were putting needles in each other's butts, Presidential candidate Bill Clinton was admitting to smoking marijuana while not inhaling, a feat yet to be humanly replicated. Marion Barry can definitely inhale--an "instant replay" of his tape in a Washington DC motel (where he was in the company of a lady with questionable moral values) shows the former mayor (and current councilman) wrapping his lips around a crack pipe and inhaling with gusto. Our current President refused to answer questions about allegations of illegal drug use; baseball players following the president's example are excoriated by professional politicians in Congress.
Politicians (and some fans) argue that the records set by athletes who take anabolic steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs have an unfair advantage over their predecessors. Hasn't every generation of athletes enjoyed an advantage over the previous one? Whether it's equipment, training techniques, advances in sports medicine or nutrition, athletes have improved performance over centuries, seeking out every available advantage in order to better the previous generation. Steroids use can be hazardous to your health, but so is getting your head bashed in by a grown man, getting blindsided by a charging linebacker, or getting hit in the temple by a wild pitch (crossing the street can also be fatal at times).
Why are politicians getting involved in the business of professional sports? At this rate, Congress will soon be telling employers all over the country how to deal with their employees. Oops! I forgot, they already do. Middle-aged men as well as those of advanced age, who currently hide the fact that they are taking performance-enhancing drugs (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis) or have had performance-enhancing surgery (the pump) from their sexual partners may one day soon find themselves testifying before Congress.