World-Class Athletes Are Pre-Performance Enhanced
When it comes to athletic performance, it's not how you start—it's how you Finnish
By Steve Mirsky
Image: Matt Collins
The London Olympic Games and the Tour de France are on the horizon in Europe. Here in North America, the baseball season is under way, with football soon to follow. All of which means that around the world, in gleaming state-of-the-art facilities and dingy state-of-the-meth-lab basements, chemists are hard at work making molecules for athletes to swallow, snort, apply and inject into one another’s butts.
Almost all sports fans decry the use of performance-enhancing drugs. It’s cheating. It gives the user attributes he ...view middle of the document...
Schilling’s bloody sock is already on display there.
Pitcher Mordecai Brown mangled his hand in a piece of farming equipment, which earned him the nickname “Three-Finger” but made his curveball better. Pitcher Antonio Alfonseca’s hereditary polydactyly gave him six fingers per hand. Do we need a five-finger rule?
Furthermore, why is “Tommy John surgery” okeydoke? When I was a boy, when a pitcher’s arm fell off, he just pitched with his other arm. Sorry, I slipped into caricature-old-man mode for a second there. Let me try again.
When I was a kid, if a pitcher suffered damage to the ulnar collateral ligament of his elbow, he either kept trying to pitch through the pain, or he retired. But in 1974 orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe replaced pitcher Tommy John’s ligament with a tendon from John’s arm. And John pitched in the major leagues until 1989. So many pitchers have performed so well after Tommy John surgery, some young pitchers have considered having it done electively.
The usual answer I get is that surgical procedures merely allow the athlete to return to his or her previous, natural condition. They do not enhance anybody’s performance. Which seems reasonable—until I wonder whether it was natural for some athletes to break down under the stress when other...