Integrity Matters
December 15, 2004

Athletes need integrity

Question: (E-160)

Dear Jim:

What are baseball superstars like Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds thinking about when they use performance-enhancing drugs? Do "home run" records still have integrity?


Money and fame attract many physically gifted athletes. Their integrity is now being scrutinized because an increasing number are taking chemical shortcuts to exceptional achievement. Greed and glory are turning Major League Baseball, in particular, into a laboratory for amoral scientists and money-hungry pharmaceutical firms.

The baseball players association, with its private-club atmosphere, has yet to fully address the problem. Meanwhile, fans clamor for their superheroes to set new records. Owners wring their hands, unable to properly discipline inappropriate drug use, while simultaneously allowing dollar signs to cloud sound judgment.

Today's ticket buyers demand an exciting show, and the players have gotten the message. The economic realities are clear: Professional athletes have decided it's worth risking infamy and poor health to become famous by setting records, legally or illegally. And the adoring fans, with their short-sighted demands for gratification, are perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of these gladiators. Unless or until the playing field is level, without chemical enhancements, many records could become meaningless.

With the latest reports of improper drug use, more officials are willing to weigh in on abuse of performance-enhancing drugs. From the White House to statehouses around the nation, and now to the Congress, the words are clear: Performance-enhancing drug abuse is wrong. Let's stop it.

When will our culture learn this truth? It should be common knowledge that free markets, including baseball players and their respective organizations, must regulate themselves or governments will. Admirable and honest role models are needed. Certainly, gifted athletes are visible and powerful examples. Our society needs visible adults to play by constructive, self-imposed rules and behave appropriately, because integrity matters.

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