Sunday, December 16, 2007

George Mitchell's Report and Denial About Professional Sports

So George Mitchell’s report on steroid use came out a few days ago. Is anyone really surprised that it concluded that steroid use was fairly pervasive in professional baseball? Some people were calling this report a major step forward in the effort to end the problem of steroid use. I think these people are living in denial. The report also stated that hundreds of thousands of high school athletes are now using steroids. There’s no way that we’re on the road to ending the problems with drug enhanced athletics, nor do I think we ever can be. If you somehow eliminate steroids, the race will be on to find a better replacement. Indeed, such efforts have been ongoing for years already. It’s an arms race where the offense (new drug manufactures) will always have the major advantage.

This is an example of a much large issue – advancements in technology tend to make old business models obsolete. The old businesses struggle to maintain their old way of making profits by increase rules and regulations. The music recording industry is a fine example of this. Technology has made their business model of the $15 music CD obsolete. In a recent legal argument, the recording industry made the incredible claim that taking a CD that you bought and own, and making a backup copy of it on your computer was an illegal act of theft. They can apparently do just fine by selling recordings of songs online for 99 cents, but their struggle to maintain their old business model has reached the level of absurdity now.

So getting back to sports. Any professional sport where strength, speed, or endurance plays a dominant factor is facing an increasingly obsolete business model due to the increasing dominance of performance enhancing drugs. Sorry to say it, but the days of professional sports as we knew them are coming to a close.

There were many people expressing strong emotional disappointment at the number of players listed in Mitchell’s report as having used performance enhancing drugs. “People looked up to these athletes as heroes and role models”. Actually, that is perhaps the much bigger problem that we have to come to grips with. The unhealthy obsession with professional sports in our society is leaving people in denial about the true nature of the business and the people engaged in it.

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