A Remarkable Story
Judge Kozinski on Law and Justice

Baseball and Steroids

Talking about anabolic androgenic steroids invokes a lot of memories.  As a very young boy, I read muscle magazines, and later I became fascinated with the human body.  I always wondered how a person could become bigger, faster, stronger, and smarter.  One thing many professional bodybuilders and powerlifters did to increase muscle mass and strength, was use anabolic androgenic steroids.  Of course, few would admit using steroids, and doctors and health teachers lied to us, saying that steroids were ineffective.

I remember arguing with my sixth grade biology teacher about steroids.  His position, the current dogma at the time, was simple and unsophisticated: Steroids don't "work."  I carefully explained that he was wrong by citing scientific articles and anecdotal evidence about steroids.  I even used pretty clear reasoning (for a grade schooler, anyway) saying, "If boys grow muscle when their testosterone levels increase during puberty, then why can't boys grow muscles later in life using testosterone."

But he was a teacher and therefore knew everything.  The dogma on steroids did change until about tenth grade.

Then doctors and health teachers admited that steroids were an effective way to increase strength, decrease bodyfat, and increase lead body mass.  But steroids were dangerous - they caused "roid rage" and the testicles to shrink.  Moreover, using steroids was "cheating."

Well, the science shows that "roid rage" is nothing more than an interesting phenomena that occurs when a-holes use steroids.  They remain, guess what, a-holes.  And the testicles only shrink when steroids are used improperly.  Still, I always wondered (and I still wonder) why it's not cheating to excel using your God-given genetics, but it is cheating to use science to increase performance.

Think about it.  If you're born 6'7" tall and can jump 48", you're not cheating when you dominate the basketball court.  But if someone not blessed with those genetics uses drugs to dominate, he's cheating.  What's more, no one says that a person born into an educated family (and therefore presented with more opportunities, better nutrition, and books) cheats by doing well on the SAT or LSAT.  But if someone born into poverty and in an abusive home used psychotropics or androgenics to catch up, he would be "cheating." 

Forget about cheating: Let's talk fairness.  It seems awfully unfair that someone who, by accident of brith, comes from a better gene pool and more nurturing home should be guaranteed the top spots.  "Morality" prevents the rest of us from catching up.  This position is illogical, and I think, immoral.

Thus, I've always been in favor of alowing doctors to prescribe anabolic steroids for sports-enhancing purposes, or even vanity.  Today a man can take estrogen if he wants to be a woman; a person can have botox (a poison) injected into his or her skin to look more youthful; and a person can have fat sucked out or have implants implanted..  You can take a drug if you have difficulty socializing or if you're depressed.  The question isn't whether drugs or medical procedures should be legalized (most drugs are available with a prescription), but why anabolic steroids are not.

The answer is that steroids, like marijuana, are subject to an irrational bias.  They're not available with a prescription for the same reason racism exists - ignorance.

Thus, the "steroid problem in baseball" is no problem to me.  But most people disagree.  Here are links to other positions on steroids and baseball, and steroids and crime. 

Greg Skimore has collected several sources on baseball and steroids.

At the Legal Affairs Debate Club, two sports law experts are discussing: "What should baseball do about drugs?"

Given the prevalent drug use in sports, the White Collar Crime Prof Blog wants to know why aren't celebrity athletes being prosecuted.

Reason Online has an article entitled: George Bush vs. Barry Bonds: The government's effective smear campaign against baseball's best player.

Finally, don't miss attorney Rick Collins' numerous articles on steroids and steroids and the law.