Can I say that as someone who doesn’t really follow baseball, I’ve been pretty surprised at all the gnashing of teeth over the revelation that Alex Rodriguez was using steroids back during the period when Major League Baseball had no real testing and sanctions policy for steroids. Haven’t we reached the point where we should just assume that back then all the players were using something? After all, what kind of big-time baseball star would willingly eschew a performance-enhancing substance whose use was widespread among his teammates and competitors and which there was no serious policy in place to prevent? It would have to be someone who wasn’t taking his baseball skills all that seriously.
At the end of the day, simply accepting this reality would, I think, wind up doing a lot to make people feel better about the game. The steroid era was an unfortunate episode, driven by bad policy decisions. But that’s what it was—the sports drug policy made near-universal use of performance enhancing substances essentially inevitable. There’s no reason to look on what players did during that period as grave personal ethical failings—they were following the logic of the system. It was a bad logic of a bad system, and that’s why change was necessary.