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PEDs and Quality of Competition

2013 August 27
by Phil Miller

In a recent TSE post, Brian writes:

The league’s testing procedure (“analytic evidence”) uncovered only 13 users from 2009 to the present. Yet, now there is strong evidence  that many players not only using PEDs, but doing it right underneath the nose of the testing process. Whether through MLB’s feckless attempts or the Player’s Association foot-dragging, the testing procedure is a joke. Players are tested upon reporting to spring training, providing them with full knowledge of the test’s timing. MLB should just include a warning sign to users – if you are using PEDs, then stop or mask them before this date. During the season, the collective bargaining agreement allows for one random test. So, once that is out of the way, a player can supplement with PEDs to their heart’s content without the threat of a test. Of course, cycling and Olympic sports have shown that sophisticated doctors, labs, and chemists can mask PED use quite well even with more randomized tests, but baseball’s procedures don’t even make it difficult.

This raises an interesting question:  why has MLB been feckless in reigning in PED use?  The answer is in the absolute quality of play.

The absolute quality of play refers to the overall quality of competition.  In American baseball, the absolute quality of play is higher in MLB than in the minors.  The higher the absolute quality of play, all else equal, the higher the demand for the sport.

PED’s, well, enhance player performance, making them faster and stronger, and allow players to recover faster from injuries.  If a sufficient number of players use, then the absolute quality of play, as perceived by fans, will improve.  If fans don’t really mind whether players use, we’d expect there to be more demand for baseball and higher revenues for teams.

The increase in fan demand should also be reflected in higher player salaries.  As long as the revenue increase exceeds the salary increase, then looking the other way on PED use is what we would expect.

2 Responses
  1. Greg permalink
    August 27, 2013

    Precisely right and this dovetails with my comment from the earlier post. It’s abundantly clear that MLB has no real desire to truly get rid of PEDs in their sport.

  2. Nick Evans permalink
    August 28, 2013

    In this, they’re no different from most other governing bodies. Particularly in the non-Olympic sports, or sports where an outside competition is more important than the Olympics (NBA, Champions League, Grand Slams), drug testing is seen as something negative for the sport – airing the dirty laundry in public, so to speak. This was the gist of Armstrong’s attacks on those in cycling like Bassons and Simeoni who dared to point the finger at him: they were “bad for cycling” and should find another career. Happily, doping seems to be becoming more difficult in cycling – ultimately, Armstrong was busted because Floyd Landis tested positive – but other sports seem to prefer the spectacle. Certainly there was little desire among the football or tennis authorities to find out who Dr Feuntes had been treating in their sports.

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