Ever since Alex Rodriguez and many other high-profile baseball players were linked to a clinic in Miami that supposedly distributed performance enhancing drugs, certain sectors of the sports media have once again fallen into P.E.D. mania. This cycle has become all too familiar by now, especially in baseball. Evidence emerges, circumstantial or otherwise, that a famous player is using drugs to enhance his performance, and a combination witch hunt and inflated outrage festival ensues. ESPN writers post articles like this one, and so on.
Normally I ignore the mania, to the best of my ability. These witch hunts distract me from what I actually enjoy: watching and talking about sports. The games will be played regardless of what talking heads on ESPN say about those playing them, and the talking heads are easy to ignore. I turn off the TV. However, Bill Simmons recently published his own opinions on P.E.D.’s just before the Super Bowl, and for the first time I felt a need to highlight something that a member of the sports media had written.
The end of the article caught my attention the most, specifically two paragraphs near the end that open “Really? You’re that fearful of what we’d find in your blood, NBA players?” and “Let’s see what’s in everyone’s body, once and for all.” These sentences take things too far. People’s bodies, even athlete’s bodies, are private. No one has a right to know what’s in another person’s body and anyone has every right to say, “Hey, don’t you think drawing my blood invades my privacy, just a little?”
The desire to have all professional athletes subject themselves to blood testing is understandable. It’s an invasive, highly effective means of detecting drugs. Just because it would be effective, however, doesn’t mean athletes owe anyone a blood sample. Mandating that to satisfy the public and the media removes a right to confidentiality that athletes deserve to be granted until they willingly choose to sacrifice it.
This is not to say that no one should ever be subjected to a blood test in order to play sports, or work anywhere for that matter. It is only to point out that it is over the top to suggest athletes owe anyone a blood sample. Blood samples contain a wealth of information about an individual, most of it not pertaining to illegal drugs. Athletes still have a lot in common with less public and successful individuals. They have a right to keep their blood private.
Many will accurately point out that there are already sporting events that test blood. That’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with testing blood. Athletes who want to compete in those events will be informed of the blood test. They can then make an informed decision to pursue the competition or not.
What goes too far is demanding that established rules be changed to include blood tests because some of us who don’t play professional sports feel we still don’t have enough information about professional athletes. Blood is very private, and specimen samples from athletes are leaked, often. For that reason it is perfectly understandable, even laudable for player’s unions to try to prevent blood testing. A leaked blood sample could do incredible harm, revealing information about far more than just cheating.
Ultimately, the protesting may prove fruitless. There may come a day when the collective bargaining agreements in all major sports require blood instead of urine tests. That’s fine. Those agreements are contracts negotiated between two informed sides. If the players ultimately decide to provide blood, so be it, that is their prerogative. But it remains their prerogative to maintain or decline. Consenting adults have a right to give up a privacy, but it shouldn’t be taken away so easily.
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