Monday, July 28, 2008

Aggressive & Passive Responses to Doping 

A Yahoo! Sports headline and associated summary regarding the Tour on Monday headline reads, Sastre Wins Doping-Scarred Tour de France. Setting aside moral philosophy, I wonder whether the Tour's (and related governing bodies) aggressive testing and enforcement regarding banned substances, itself, diminishes fan interest. The Tour appears to be generating its own scrutiny. We didn't read about a "doping-scarred" season in MLB last year or a tainted Red Sox championship in spite of all the hullaballoo surrounding Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens personally. MLB's very passive "ignore-minimize-forgive" strategy over the last decade seems to have paid dividends versus the "zero tolerance" strategy of cycling in recent years. (Of course, I'm taking the Caminiti-Canseco figures of 50% and above use of illicit substances in MLB as my guide so that the difference between cycling and MLB (at their highest levels of use) are not the difference -- rather it has been the degree of testing and enforcement.) Even though MLB has generated some mean glares from legislators and legal and public opinion problems of specific players have come under intense scrutiny, baseball itself seems to have escaped much fan response.

On the other hand, maybe the nature of the sports (indivdiual v. team oriented) or differences in fan base (American v. European) suggests different optimal strategies.

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