What’s needed is an aggressive campaign—similar to the all-out war on illicit drug use and smoking—to end the use of these drugs. At present, many commentators and fans do not agree that the use of performance-enhancing drugs, at least at the professional level, is a problem. They argue that we should abandon this fight and let the players take any drug they wish so long as the games on the field go on. I remind them of Bart’s wisdom. We cannot let things come to the point where the Yankees’ success depends more on who their chemist is than on the quality of their pitching.
Clearly, the deterrent for use of these drugs at the professional level must be tougher. In Major League Baseball, a violation of the gambling prohibition results in permanent expulsion from the game. As a result, there is no gambling problem in baseball. The same punishment for a first-time drug violation is now warranted—one drug violation and a player is gone from the game, forever.
Current MLB policy calls for a 50-game suspension for a first violation, a 100-game suspension for a second violation and a lifetime ban for a third violation. That policy has failed. When a player is being paid tens of millions of dollars in a multiyear contact that rewards his feats on the field, sacrificing his pay for a portion of one season—if he’s caught—may just seem like the cost of doing business. Perhaps there can be a transition period before a new policy comes into effect, but the need for much more severe sanctions is now clear.