Where is the outrage? When do the congressional hearings begin?
When Major League Baseball belatedly had to confront the probability that the game's most prolific homerun hitters were chemically enhanced, even the President of the United States got involved.
Granted, that was an exquisitely silly idea on his part, but there he was, George Bush, setting aside various other matters of life and death to make it clear that he was shocked and disturbed by the presence of steroids in baseball.
In contrast, the allegations this week that half a dozen members of the Carolina Panthers were loading up on steroids, human growth hormone, and whatever else they thought might help them get big and mean during the 2003 season has been a splash with very few ripples. The Panthers made it to the Super Bowl that season, but who has called for them to give back their conference championship rings? or for an asterisk beside the team's achievement in the NFL record book?
James Shortt, the doctor who provided the controlled substances to the Panthers, pleaded guilty to doing so and was sentenced to prison time. There is no gray area here...and apparently no contention by any of those concerned that they thought they were ingesting flaxseed oil or rubbing on arthritis cream. Most of the half dozen players who visited Dr. Shortt are retired, presumably wondering patiently around golf courses, waiting to learn what the long-term result of their drug abuse might be.
Meanwhile, as the pro football season opens, it will be business as usual, and business as usual in the N.F.L. will continue to be the crashing together of men who grow mysteriously bigger with each passing season.
Of course one argument has it that professionals trying to excel at a game — or at least trying to hold on to their jobs therein — should be free to augment themselves with anything they can gobble or shoot up, and the acceptance of that argument would certainly decrease the hypocrisy quotient of football in particular and sports in general. But until the day when the upfront use of all chemicals is deemed acceptable, football players shouldn't be given a pass on cheating, just because we've come to assume they do it.
This program aired on August 31, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.