The Core Immorality of Steroids

For my money the most important wrong committed by Alex Rodriguez,  his cohort of performance-enhancing drug (PED) abusers and their greedy team owners is a failure of moral leadership. I realize that lamenting moral lapses in high-profit professional sports is like lamenting the wetness of rain. It is what it is and no amount of lamentation by the likes of me is going to change it. But it is still worth thinking about.

In this case by moral leadership failures I don’t refer to failures on the part of individuals for whom their chosen profession has an obvious moral component.  Like clergy or police or doctors.  The PED case refers to that larger set of leaders whose place in society makes them moral leaders and whose behavior affects people less powerful than they.  Perhaps most people in these categories would reject the notion that they have any moral responsibility at all.  They — and we– might greatly prefer they not exert such influence.  But we also would like the rain to nourish the farms and leave us dry.  We would very much like it, but as the old saying goes, if wishes were horses then beggars would ride.  Moral leadership is as inescapable as it may be unwelcome.  As the business ethics scholar Joseph Badaracco wrote of this type of leader when he considered managers.

“Managers are the ethics teachers of their organizations.  This is true whether they’re saints or sinners, whether they intend to teach ethics or not.  It simply comes with the territory.   Actions send signals, and omissions send signals – almost everything does…”

So what sin specifically gets me exercised in the PED case?  These guys — mega-stars and owners —   had the power to change the rules of the game.  They did so.  They could have done many different things with that power.  Because of their greed and selfishness the A-Rod faction chose to use PEDs to hit some more homers or strike out some more hitters and get paid another dump truck load or 10 of Grovers (Clevelands, $1,000 bills).   The owners filled the trucks from the Mount Grovers that spectacular hoaxes like Sosa-McGwire had built for them.  But the dump trucks also delivered that pesky moral thing.  What did the rules changes mean for everyone else who wants to play the game they control?

The unwritten rules changes introduced by the greatest stars and owners hurt most the millions of marginal players: the people who clung for dear life to the bottom rung of the big leagues and the kids in high school, college and the minor leagues.  How many thousands of them  decided that if a player like A-Rod or Clemens, who must have received all the natural talent God had on hand, is using PEDs, then I must, also.  What they all did was illegal, sure.  But the big crime is not that the wanna-be’s injected or what they swallowed, or even what the mega-stars’  trainers injected into their gold-plated fannies.

The great crime of A-Rod et al. and their bosses was the idea they put in the heads of millions of less gifted boys and girls.  If I want to succeed I got to juice. And juice is dangerous and deadly.

How many died and suffered the physical harm and got none of the benefits?


About stephenomeara

My name is Jim Jordan. I have had the privilege of working with the Boston Police Department and hundreds more departments over my nearly 30-year career in police administration and city government. I am now teaching and consulting independently at I have learned the best of what I know from the thousands of smart, dedicated and ethical police personnel and scholars who have guided me along the way. My address is named for the great Reform commissioner of the Boston Police at the turn of the 20th century. Commissioner O'Meara died just a short while before the Strike in 1919. He was replaced by a vicious puppet (of Gov. Coolidge) named Edwin U. Curtis. Had O'Meara lived events may have turned out quite differently.
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