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article imageMLB should blame itself for steroid problem, new report says

By Martin Laine     Feb 15, 2014 in Sports
While the headlines have focused on individual ballplayers punished for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs, a new report suggests Major League Baseball and its profit-driven culture is to blame.
“Baseball is representative of the fact Americans increasingly live in an age of biotechnology in which bodily modification for profit has become the norm and, often, an unstated job requirement,” said Sarah Rose, of the University of Texas-Arlington and co-author of “Bionic Ballplayers: Risk, Profit and the Body as Commodity, 1964-2007,” according to a press release on the school’s website.
The article appears in this month’s issue of the journal LABOR: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas.
Rose and her co-author Joshua A.T. Salzmann, of Northeastern Illinois University, also suggest that by characterizing a player’s steroid use as a question of morality, it obscures MLB’s own role in the problem.
Their conclusions were drawn from a combination of interviews of such well-known ballplayers as Nolan Ryan, Tommy John, Sandy Koufax, and Jose Canseco, along with team physicians, trainers and general managers. They also collected data on the increase in MLB revenues and players’ salaries over the period of the study.
“Enticed by the prospect of riches, players and teams harnessed fitness training, reconstructive surgery, biomechanical analysis and performance-enhancing drugs to reduce wear and tear on players’ bodies and, ultimately, radically alter them for profit,” the report concludes.
They also blame huge television revenues, free agency, and salary arbitration, for resulting in what they term the “economy of bodily management.”
“We show that … bodily interventions arose out of the same dramatic shifts in the business of baseball – shifts that drove the medicalization of the game and players’ bodies,” Rose said.
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