It is virtually impossible to turn on ESPN these days without hearing about some drama-filled story within the sports world. ESPN has done its best to morph itself into reality television by covering the real world story rather than the sports highlight. It is even more difficult to turn on ESPN or listen to any sports radio without hearing about the recent Alex Rodriguez blunder and the 12 other Biogenesis disciples that violated Major League Baseball’s substance abuse policy. But is baseball really where the problem lies?
After thinking long and hard about the matter, and after speaking to many of my informed colleagues about the substance abuse problem in sports, I began to formulate a theory that the problem was far beyond that of Major League Baseball. Further, being a Florida tax attorney by day and a sports fan by night, I decided to look into the numbers for myself to see if the problem was truly limited to baseball. As I suspected, the results of my limited inquiry were more shocking than even I expected.
According to sources, Guillermo Mota, Freddy Gaivis, Marion Byrd, Melky Cabrera, Bartolo Colon, Yasmani Grandal, and Carlos Ruiz were the professional baseball players suspended in 2012 for substance abuse violations. That total puts my count at 7 suspensions for substance abuse. During the same period, the NFL had a staggering 20 players suspended under their substance abuse rules. For 2013 thus far, you guessed it, MLB has 14 suspensions while the NFL has 16. Based on my limited research, that puts the count at 21 MLB to 36 for the NFL for the past 2 years. In the interests of full disclosure, some of the NFL suspensions were for non-PED related substances, but the numbers speak for themselves-there is a problem in the NFL as well.
So why do we make such a big deal about baseball? In baseball, many argue that the use of PEDs increases ones physical strength to hit a ball with much more power. This is a threat to the game because it puts former records in jeopardy, when, in theory, substances were not used to assist in one’s performance. To think PED’s magically came into existence in the 1990’s is almost laughable. Would it really shock anyone if Ruth, Maris, Gehrig, and/or Mantle took something to get an edge?
For whatever reason, with about the same level of violations, the NFL stays relatively under the radar for the same problem. But think about it, is A-Rod bulking up to hit homeruns any different than a wide receiver running faster or jumping higher than everyone for a few extra touchdowns? How are league homerun being shattered and pitchers breaking records well beyond their primes different than a running back breaking a few extra tackles or out-running that safety to the corner a few extra times a year? I suppose football records aren’t as threatened because of physical attribute boosters.
Even more troubling is the NFL’s focus on cleaning up the league from a safety perspective. The NFL has toned down the game by outlawing hits to the head. It has gone as far to reduce the number of kickoff returns in a season in an effort to protect itself against lack of safety lawsuits. It seems like an easy argument for one to make that bigger, faster, and stronger players, who are assisted by performance enhancers, are capable of delivering more dangerous hits. Even further, I would be hard pressed to counter an argument based on the premise that performance enhancers are more beneficial to a football player breaking a record than a baseball player doing the same. Still, for whatever reason, when A-Rod, Barry Bonds, or even Melky Cabrera gets caught doing it, the entire world cannot ignore the slip up, but when Aqib Talib, Brian Cushing, or Bill Romanowski do it, it’s not such a big deal. While I agree that the caliber of player getting caught in football is not equivalent to the baseball all-timer breaking the rules, the regularity at which the rules are broken are fairly equal.
I am not an A-Rod fan, a Yankee fan, or even really a true baseball fan, I am just curious as to what all the commotion is about when the reality is, the rules are probably being broken in all sports. I urge the fan, the broadcaster, or the writers out there to just stop and think about reality the next time they are enraged by what a baseball player has. It seems to me that health, safety, and a level playing field is out the window when it comes to PED use. It seems the only reason baseball “purists” care about the PED use to preserve fairly records by those who did not “presumably” use performance enhancers. Would you be as enraged if a football player got caught doing the same thing? Reality is they probably are.
About the author: Jerry Donnini is a multi-state sales and use tax attorney and an associate in the law firm Moffa, Gainor, & Sutton, PA, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Mr. Donnini’s primary practice is Florida sales tax, multi-state sales and use tax as well as state corporate income tax controversy. Mr. Donnini also practices in the areas of federal tax controversy, Florida tobacco tax, Florida reemployment tax, Florida motor fuel tax, native American taxation, federal estate planning, and Florida probate. Mr. Donnini is currently pursuing his LL.M. in Taxation at NYU. If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact him via email or phone listed on this page.