Human Limits

Exploring performance and health with Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

Photo of Michael J. Joyner, M.D.

The A-Rod Game

Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) was suspended for 200 games by major league baseball based on “non-analytic” evidence of doping, most recently as part of the “Biogenesis” scandal in south Florida.  He was one of 13 players suspended and his suspension is the longest doping suspension in major league history.  Like Lance Armstrong he “passed” any number of drug tests.  That having been said, there was a terrific article a couple of weeks ago in the Economist about “game theory” and doping in sports.  The idea is that the athletes are in a game with each other.  If testing and enforcement are lax, then (depending on the rewards for a superior performance) the risk of getting beat by a doper is greater than the risk of getting caught.


The Bud Selig Game

The athletes are also in a game with the authorities.  More importantly the authorities are in a game with the fans.  Incredible performances increase fan interest and so a cynic might argue that the owners want the appearance of compliance more than a truly clean game.  This charge has been leveled at Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig who has been accused of turning a blind eye during the Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds homerun derby era after the 1994-95 baseball strike.   One argument about the Lance Armstrong case is that the cycling authorities knew what was going on but were more than happy to have Lance win year after to year to “grow” the interest in their sport in the U.S. which was a relatively untapped market compared to Europe.


The Yankee Game

The Yankees signed A-Rod to a huge long term contract.  To what extent are they more than happy to see him more or less go away so they can “head in a different direction”?


The Other Games

Here are some other games that are being played:

  1. As I have pointed out numerous times, testing is beatable on many levels.  Who are the authorities trying to fool?
  2. Testing in U.S. professional sports is generally less rigorous than WADA based testing used in the Olympics, and WADA based testing is still beatable.
  3. There is a lack of transparency.  Post who was tested how often but after the tests were performed.  Then post the results.   This would increase confidence among athletes about “unilateral disarmament” and also let everyone see if any stars were in fact being protected.   It would also essentially crowd source scrutiny of high normal values, and I bet there are plenty.
  4. What about unregulated anti-aging clinics that sell all sorts of hormone based potions to all sorts of people?   When Jane or Joe six-pack can essentially get drive through hormone treatment to buff themselves up, why not ballplayers?


Suspend Bud Selig?

A-Rod (like Lance Armstrong) is not a person I want to defend.  However, he is just one dishonest cog in the machinery of denial.   If he deserves to be suspended then so does Bud Selig for either turning a blind eye or never looking very hard in the first place.  Does anyone really believe that the hard-nosed billionaire owners did not know what was going on?  Are they cracking down now because they finally woke up or because their checkbooks are talking?



3 Responses to “The A-Rod Game”

  1. August 8th, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Gar Fisher says:

    Don’t you mean ” the risk of getting beat by a doper is MORE than the risk of getting caught.”

  2. August 11th, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    Michael Joyner, M.D. says:

    change made as noted!

  3. August 8th, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Darren says:

    You are spot on…..Selig and the owners turned a blind eye to what was going on in the 90s. At that time they were only interested in getting the fans back (and their money) that were lost due to the strike. Once the popularity and fans returned to baseball Selig started to implement and enforce his rules related to PED use.

    There are two other things to consider with the most recent suspensions related to Biogenesis:

    1) Why was Braun only given a 65 game ban? Is it because Selig is the former owner and team president of the Milwaukee Brewers?

    2) Is it me or does anyone else think it is odd for players to be able to negotiate the length of their suspension? That is like a criminal negotiating his/her jail sentence with a judge.

    Selig is and has always been a joke.

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