Steroids, Schmeroids. Why Not Enhanced and Unenhanced Sports Leagues?


Baseball phenom Barry Bonds is trying to match or exceed Hank Aaron's all time home run mark any day now. By some people's lights, Bonds' accomplishment will be marred by the suspicion that he used enhancement drugs of some sort. The fact the commissioner of baseball has been following Bonds around the last few games suggests that any such lingering stigma is already dissipating. For the record, I am not in favor of anyone breaking the rules to which they voluntarily agreed. But should the line against various enhancements hold in professional sports?

Washington Post reporter, Joel Garreau, explores this question in an article about techno-athletes. Garreau asks:

Is it inevitable that there soon will be two kinds of leagues in baseball, basketball or football—the Naturals and the Enhanced? '

For a long time now, my answer has been yes. In an April, 2005 op/ed for the Riverside Press-Enterprise (unfortunately, I can't find a link to it) I suggested:

Why not solve the future problem of gene doping and the current problem of steroid use in professional sports by creating two kinds of sports leagues? One would be free of genetic and pharmacologic enhancements—call them the Natural Leagues. The other would allow players to use gene fixes and other enhancements—call them the Enhanced Leagues. Let fans decide which play they prefer.

Whole Garreau article here. My March 17, 2005 NPR Marketplace radio commentary making the two league proposal here. reason contributor Dayn Perry's astute 2003 observations about steroids in baseball here. And my February, 2005 column on gene doping in sports here.

Finally, here's wishing good luck to Bonds.

Hat tip to Ted Weinstein.