Resistance by professional athletes to drug testing is getting comical. Let's examine some of the horrors that might follow if those such as Kent Tekulve and other athletic civil libertarians agreed to be checked randomly. What might happen if we popped a wee crack in this Pandora's Box?
Assume for a moment that every big-time catcher, linebacker and quick-side forward decided to relinquish a basic, Fourth-Amendment freedom for the image and well-being of games. You know that once these oppressive owners establish a beachhead against jock rights, they'll attack other sacred areas.
Sure as second base follows first.
What the owners might do -- to minimize costs and provide stability -- is establish a procedure for the allocation of the best amateur players to their teams. Probably, in order to create an air of fair play, they would let the worst team in each sport choose first in every round.
For lack of anything better, they might call this assault on dignity a draft.
There is an amendment to the constitution that prohibits that sort of dealing with humans, the 13th, which says in part, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime . . . shall exist within the United States . . . "
If that isn't demeaning enough, the owners then might create conditions where a team could establish a dress code for the players. On whim, the manager or coach could force grown men to wear, say, a coat and tie on road trips and while mingling with fans.
Anyone with a mind surely would fight that one.
Sometime down the line, the owners might go so far as to enact rules that would allow the man only they elected -- the commissioner -- to arbitrarily impose fines and suspensions on players. It's the Sixth Amendment, I believe, that insists, "The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury . . . "
But only in their wildest, most suffocating dreams would the owners even consider imposing rules -- backed by stiff fines -- that prohibited a player from growling in public about anything that happened to disturb him. Free speech, after all, is our most treasured right.
Each scenario is as silly as it is stifling. The military doesn't even have conscription any more. So what groups of strong-willed men would meekly comply with a system that treats them like the lowest forms of life, which in fact makes spectacle of their assignment to teams each year? Would anyone with any backbone tolerate a draft?
Only baseball, football, basketball and hockey players.
And you mean there are men who have at least experienced education beyond high school who would tolerate somebody telling them what to wear? And what to say?
Baseball, football, basketball and hockey players.
For money, the spineless heroes of our major popular sports have shattered the 13th Amendment; for money, they have shattered much of the First Amendment and the sixth.
What's another amendment among friends?
All Commissioner Peter Ueberroth wants is to give the public a feeling that major league baseball players usually obey the law of the land, even if some of them are too stupid or careless to realize drugs are harmful as well as illegal. The other commissioners should be so tough. Other than integrity, pro sport has precious little to sell.
It's entertainment, of course. But if that's all, more customers could be lured if the shortstop strangled a chicken, or fullbacks breakdanced between plays, or multi-colored lights flickered about the gym while Michael Jordan slammed a ball through a hoop.
Whether it should or not, sport succeeds best as quasi-religion. Whether they should be or not, athletes are convenient role models. And if the Olde Towne Team team ain't something of an inspiration, why give it a third or fourth glance?
To my way of thinking, whether a player can speak his mind or gets a fair shake before the commissioner or can play for the team of his choice is not even close to whether he's relatively drug-free. That's the freedom that should have been bargained away quickest.
Fifteen years ago would not have been too soon for our major sports to have started what Ueberroth is pushing so vigorously. He is acting as though a scandal is about to erupt, which it evidently is, and trying to shame the people in baseball who need testing most -- the players -- into being sensible.
Ueberroth has yet to announce the specifics of his program, but I doubt the tests would be too regular or too often. They shouldn't be. You don't tell a burglar the outside lights will be on next Thursday night. To be most effective, there might be one scheduled check each season -- and one unannounced.
The most sanctimonious of sporting shows, the Olympics, already has drug testing. Since the early 1950s, many of its leaders have realized that lots of athletes will swallow almost anything they believe is required to win. Sadly, each innovation in testing often has been countered by one in medicine.
Olympic athletes also regard drug testing as being an embarrassing intrusion on obvious rights. They accept it, because they know the Olympics could be eroded and possibly destroyed by once-trusting fans turned cynical. For them, it's been an even tradeoff.
Why should pro athletes be any different?
To Tekulve and other hard liners, think of it this way: nobody is asking you to do anything Mary Lou Retton hasn't already done.