On steroids: "there oughta be a law"

When I was a kid, and my parents got together with their parents, I’d listen to their conversation on the news of the day. When the talk would turn to the transgressions of one or more miscreants, as it inevitably did, they’d often utter the following: “there oughta be a law.” This was a lazy idiom that, literally interpreted, implied my folks wanted the legislature to do something, to rid society of the apparent problem.

That phrase stuck with me, because much of the time, it didn’t make sense. Sometimes the misdeed had already been sanctioned by the lawmakers, and sometimes it was just foolishness that a law had no hope of influencing. But the phrase was informative in terms of positive political economy: when people talk amongst themselves about the apparent evils of the world, they express a desire to be rid of them: “there oughta be a law.” You-know-who has his ear to the ground, of course, and on hearing that, he tells the people that he will fix things.

Congress is doing exactly that with the steroid issue, with legislation slated to be introduced “in the next two to three months.” One might grant that the politicians are well-intentioned on this, but nevertheless it is hard to imagine that what they fashion will be an improvement on what the leagues would do on their own. Greg’s take at the Sports Law Blog (in an odd reversal of the norm) is more cynical than mine:

Perhaps Congress has discovered that professional sports is a major untapped source of campaign contributions. You certainly can expect some campaign money to be flowing in to the Capital in the next few months, as certain legislators have floated the idea of taking the testing for performance-enhancing drugs out of the hands of the leagues and placing it into their own.

The proposed legislation is not making much news however, and in the eyes of John Perricone at Only Baseball Matters, that’s a scandal in itself. Scandalous or not, Congress getting into the act is, unfortunately, all too predictable. For whatever reason, the people like their politicians to make laws, and make them they will, whatever the consequences.

It will be interesting to see if the leagues can manage their way out of this pickle. As Greg suggests, it might take a bit of payola, in one form or another.