Editorial: A new scourge in the game
Former Sen. George Mitchell made the point about the use of performance enhancing drugs succinctly.
‘‘This goes far beyond baseball, way, way beyond baseball,’’ Mitchell told a House panel that was holding hearings on his recent report about steroids in the game.
Indeed it does and it also goes way, way beyond steroids.
One of the most troubling points of the congressional hearing was made by Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney about an issue that has, until now, been flying under the radar.
Tierney highlighted the growing use of stimulants that some players are finding they can obtain with baseball’s assent and doctors’ prescriptions.
According to their own data, officials in Major League Baseball in 2006 issued 28 exemptions for Attention Deficit Disorder medications, such as Ritalin and Adderall.
But last year, the number of exemptions nearly quadrupled to more than 100. Tierney pointed out that is eight times the incidence rate among professional ballplayers as it is among the nation’s adult population.
And the reason may be that the medications are stimulants. Both are class 2 controlled substances listed in the same category as cocaine, codeine, morphine, and amphetamines. In fact, Ritalin is being sold on the streets as a form of speed.
‘‘I don’t worry about the players; they’re millionaires,’’ Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said.
But he should because whether they want to be role models or not, the athletes are emulated by younger fans. A study by the Center for Disease Control found that 1 in 16 junior high and high school athletes uses performance enhancing drugs, mostly steroids and amphetamines.
ADD is largely associated with children and teens and with this new information, we may see an upsurge in ADD and ADHD diagnoses with student-athletes.
‘‘It is not a coincidence I began my remarks with the dangers of steroids to young people,’’ Mitchell said, giving ample reason why Congress clearly has a place in the debate over performance enhancing drugs.
These are highly competitive athletes with millions of dollars at stake and if we have learned anything through this horrible era it is some athletes will do whatever they can to find the loopholes in trying to gain an advantage.