Commentary: PED Scandal Is a Tale of Wealth and Fame

In a world of excess, athletes like Alex Rodriguez and Lance Armstrong will bend and break rules to acquire more than their share of both.

Posted: 08/07/2013 12:34 PM EDT

I’m reminded of a story a respected bioethicist told me recently. He admitted he didn’t know whether the story was apocryphal or the gospel truth, but he liked its message so much that he tells the story often.

It centers on choice, he said: A group of Canadians was once asked if given a chance to take a concoction that guaranteed them fame and wealth yet shortened their lives substantially, would they take it.

Most respondents said they would take a Nutty Professor’s potion, and they said so by a wide margin, which shows how intoxicating fame and riches are. It also tells you why people should not be surprised that athletes cheat.

The culture in America, and I guess in Canada as well, is that no price is too high for fame and money. We see that here in politics, in the streets and in our sports. Think about it, why do men in big cities sling crack when they know what the consequences are? Few of these men grow old in the drug trade, unless they work for Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer or one of the other giant, legal drug dealers.

Still, men are willing to risk it all, as we know from the number of Black rappers, including Jay Z, whose careers began in the crack business. What is early death (or a long prison stretch) to them when the lives they live are ones of quiet desperation?

To me, desperation is what links most of the Major League ballplayers caught in the latest embarrassment over the use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Or else greed.

In a society where excess is seldom looked at as an evil, where the accumulation of tangible goods means more than building strong character or having a moral compass that works, men chase money and fame, even once they have both.

Yet men who lack moral convictions or spiritual foundations never have enough of anything. Their lives might be rich in tangibles, but their lives are poor in what matters most: self worth.

Not a single ballplayer that commissioner Bud Selig suspended Monday needed the exotic potions Biogenesis, Anthony Bosch’s wellness clinic in South Florida, prescribed for them. They had already made it to the big leagues and that alone should have been enough to sate their appetite for fame and fortune.

Undoubtedly, none of them will ever be as rich or as famous as Alex Rodriguez, the kingfish in this rogue’s gallery of tainted ballplayers. But all of them should have seen, from Rodriguez’s past ties to steroids and those of Lance Armstrong, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Roger Clemens, that no good comes from being in the company of cheats.

But as the bioethicist told me, he saw no punishment besides a lifetime ban that will ever be Draconian enough to prevent athletes who judge their worth in dollars and fame from going outside the lines to get an extra helping of both.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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  (Photo: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) 

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