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Adventures in Drug War Moralism


Allen Barra and Will Weiss say much of what needs to be said about Toure’s review of three books largely about steroids in baseball. (Amazingly, a second Times review has considered and uncritically praised Selena’s Roberts’s book while not engaging with any of the problems that pretty much every other reviewer has found with it.) In addition to some bizarre claims about Slappy (who allegedly hurt attendance although the Yankees never drew four million fans before he got there), we get two classic tropes of drug war moralists. First, the inability to distinguish between correlation and causation, taken to extremes:

The real, unignorable problem, the main reason steroids cannot be allowed to proliferate, is that they are killers. Steroids can lead to several forms of cancer, heart attacks, liver disease, even homicide and suicide. The football star Lyle Alzado died at 43 from a brain tumor that he was certain steroids were responsible for. The high school baseball star Taylor Hooton committed suicide, perhaps because of depression brought on by steroids. Ken Caminiti, the National League’s most valuable player in 1996 and an admitted steroid user, died from an accidental drug overdose at 41.

We’re pretty much dealing with self-parody here. I mean, if someone with Lyle Alzado’s impeccable scientific credentials believes with no evidence that steroids caused his brain tumor, that’s all the data I need! And surely Ken Caminiti overdosing on coke and pills provides even more compelling evidence about the negative health effects of steroids.

Toure also engages in bog-standard union bashing, attacking the MLBPA for not agreeing to drug testing with no conditions. (The owners, for some reason, manage to escape scrutiny entirely, although if they had wanted a testing program they could have negotiated it.) Those damned unions, standing up for the privacy rights of their workers! At any rate, I’m sure Toure would be happy to submit a urine sample with every piece he sells and have the results made public. I want to know that his writing is natural — I mean, won’t someone please think of the children!?!?!?!?!?

Speaking of which, make sure to see here for an excellent rebuttal to claims that the illegal leaking of confidential tests should be made more widespread.

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