Nobody Should Care that Julian Edelman Dopes
This morning, USA Today columnist Nancy Armour published a piece saying that Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman shouldn’t have received the award, because he shouldn’t have been eligible to play in the game. Edelman, you see, missed the first four games of the season for violating the NFL’s doping policy when a test revealed a common masking agent in his blood. Armour believes he should have been barred from the postseason as well.
Armour’s argument is basically that other leagues have more onerous penalties for athletes caught doping, so the NFL’s relatively nonchalant response must thus be wrong. And while I love piling on the NFL as much as anybody, Armour really misses the landing here. She writes how “If this was any other sport, we’d be howling about the sanctity of the game and how someone who cheats should be branded with a scarlet PED for the rest of his life.” But first of all, football isn’t any other sport. It’s football. It’s the one that turns your brain into mush as missiles of flesh destroy any shot you have at having an enjoyable retirement. Armour mentions this in her piece, writing
PEDs make players faster and stronger. PEDs allow players to recover faster and withstand the brutal pounding of a game that is the equivalent of a series of car wrecks PEDs allow smaller players to hold their own against guys with six inches and 100 pounds on them.
To me, this all sounds like a good thing! Why would we want to prevent workers from taking advantage of one of the few job safety measures available to them? Armour makes some noises about vague notions of ‘integrity’ and suggests Edelman and other dopers took shortcuts to success. But what do football players, or any athlete for that matter, owe us? Why do they need to be subjected to some arbitrary moral code they had no say in developing?
What they did have a say in developing was the current CBA, and that’s where the doping policy that made it possible for Edelman to play came from. Armour’s criticism of it thus borders on anti-labor. This is the effectively the moral code they agreed to abide by. It shows they know that these drugs are a necessary tool to be able to go to work every day, but because it offends her sense of integrity, Armour can’t accept that and comes down firmly against the union here.
Armour fails to ask the big question staring her in the face: what if football is right in how it handles doping, and every other sport is wrong? This column shows a lack of understanding about the arbitrary, undemocratic, and opaque process that results in the creation of banned substance lists. What makes something ‘doping’ versus just ‘taking a supplement’? You may be surprised to know there’s no medical delineation. It is purely a social distinction. It’s a group of faceless bureaucrats (not doctors or athletes) in a boardroom somewhere throwing darts at a board to decided what to place on the list and what not to. It has nothing to do with how harmful it is to the body or how it impacts performance. And to roundly condemn an athlete for doping without first interrogating the undemocratic structures that create the phenomenon of doping in the first place is simply malpractice.