Enhanced Equipment Versus Pharma
Triathlon has recently instituted a ridiculous rule about wetsuits. The governing body says some brands give triathletes unfair advantages in the water and have banned those brands. But you can bring any bike you want, regardless of make, model or expense.
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Baseball's tools are leveled out. Metal bats give hitters an unfair advantage, so they are banned in the major leagues in favor of wooden bats. Football develops lighter pads that offer similar protection, allowing 240lbs men to launch themselves at other players at even greater speeds.
Technology makes possible the tools athletes use to be greater. Which in turn makes those athletes seem ever more superhuman. What's the difference between improving the external tools of the trade and improving the internal?
Sports medicine, legal sports medicine, even offers advantages that might be seen as unfair. How many pitchers have gotten Tommy John's surgery, what used to be a career-ender, only to come back throwing harder than ever? Adrian Peterson had his entire knee rebuilt and came back in record time to have the best season of his life.
That isn't cheating though, because it's legal. It's a health matter. Of course, he had surgery, he had to get better so he could keep playing the game. That he actually got better while getting better is incidental and/or unrelated.
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Pharmacological advantages, though, are cheating. They offer what fans see as an unfair advantage. The biggest result of this splitting of advantageous hairs is every few months sports fans have to sit through a long "Did He?" or "Didn't He?" debate about some guy they used to cheer for.
Every few months someone who is paid and worshiped for being the best, strongest and fastest is dragged over the coals for doing anything they could to attain that goal. And every time it feels a little more self-righteous. Every time it feels more like poking the guy above you with a sharp stick just to see if he'll fall.
The argument, then, is to give in. "Well, they're going to cheat so we might as well make it legal." That rubs fans of pure sport the wrong way.
Sure, some fans are in it for the long ball and the amazing recoveries. But some fans are in it for the artistry and poetry of a well-played game. Bear in mind the definition of pure sport also changes once a generation.
One Possible Solution
There is a way to please both sides, and stop the stick-poking and hypocrisy: two leagues for every sport. A clean league, with all substances banned like most professional sports pretend to now. An enhanced league, where no augmentation or improvement is out of bounds. Call them the Enhanced Sports Leagues.
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The huge number of athletes who are clean and proud of it should not be punished.
Bodybuilding figured this out a long time ago, with many "clean" tournaments cropping up all over the place. A fan can watch a living, breathing Incredible Hulk pose out, or they can watch a dude who seems to love repeatedly lifting heavy things and putting them down posing out, and not have them judged against each other.
The athletes who are interested in pushing their bodies past natural limits can now do so without guilt or dishonesty. The Enhanced Baseball League's Commissioner welcomes all baseball players who think a 600-foot home run just isn't good enough. No Supreme Court testimony necessary.
Like the movie Field of Dream says, "People will come, Ray. People will come." They will come to watch the towering home runs driven by men with heads so big helmets are specially made for them. They will come to see if this is the game a safety actually explodes another man's head from his shoulders. They will come to watch a guy in spandex fly up a mountainside like he's got rockets attached to his bike, and they'll stay tuned in to see if his heart explodes on national television.
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Each league gets its own record books and its own Hall of Fame. People who care about those things could even go back and retcon everyone from the Clean hall to the Enhanced. No more asterisks, no more debates about morality. Sports purists get to keep their games of chess, and the mob gets the longball.
The best part? No more guilt trips. No more dragging over the coals. No more feeling betrayed about dishonest athletes and arguing with friends about who the best really is. No more tearful confessions on Oprah's couch.
You want to juice, clear, and dope? Go ahead and be proud. As long as it isn't actually illegal you can do it. Sign this waiver that says you're an adult and know the risks and welcome to the team. The Enhanced Sports Leagues creates and encourages an honest and level playing field.
This leaves only two questions-
1) Would both leagues be able to co-exist, or would one eventually drive the other out of business?
2) How long until the first bionic athlete shows up in an Enhanced League?
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