Sunday, July 17, 2011

LTD (Let Them Drug)

Roger Clemen’s legal difficulties just ended—at least temporarily—in a mistrial. He may or may not be tried again, but really, it’s a silly procedure that doesn’t mean much in either the long or short-term.

Did he use performance-enhancing drugs? Who cares? Did Roberto Contador, or Lance Armstrong? Who cares! What of the Olympians of various nations? In some cases and in some lands, winning is a life or death issue. Does it matter that their amazing skills and stamina might be slightly enhanced by this drug or that?  It’s frankly ridiculous to think athletes whose livelihood depend on the fine tuning of their bodies will not use almost anything that will give them the slightest edge. Why shouldn’t they?  It’s pretty damned competitive out there, and these are big boys—and girls. They, better than anyone else, know the effects certain drugs will have. They know that what is beneficial today will result in harm tomorrow. They’re in the business of winning, of sacrificing their bodies for a good pay-off and a very uncertain future. This is part of the deal, whether in concussion-prone contact sports, high-speed racing (and I include bicycling racing here, where riders reach 60+ miles per hour on downhills), mixed martial arts bouts that leave both winners and losers bloody,  or more passive team games such as baseball, revered for power and skills but not hitting.  Imagine such rules applied to business.

Would someone take a brilliant inventor to court for using some sort of drug that enhanced his creative capabilities? Would this apply to artists, musicians and writers? How about investors? Soldiers? Politicians? During World War II amphetamines were routinely given to fighting men and aviators so they could stay awake and alert, and you can be certain that seekers of national offices who must stay awake 20 hours each day for weeks on end are not doing it on black coffee alone. ow about investorsH

The fact is, there’s a huge amount of hypocrisy being manifested by the rule-makers. Drugs—licit or not—are a part of our daily lives and deaths. Their legality or lack thereof is not a matter of health but of misguided morality.  The idea that something can make you a better performer, or simply a better partaker of life, without additional effort on your part, is considered wrong. To make obligatory this strange thesis, we have tried to enforce the unenforceable—we have learned and now know the drug makers and the drug takers will always be one step ahead of the drug testers.

On an international level, our stubbornness has caused more than 50,000 deaths in Mexico alone as drug cartels battle to protect and enlarge their trades in illicit drugs.  We have created a narcocracy there, and the likelihood is that the exact same thing will happen in Afghanistan when our military presence ends. We have spent billions in eradication, interdiction, re-education, and agricultural programs in the war of drugs, a conflict we are losing. Our hospital emergency rooms are overrun by overdoses, our jails and prisons overcrowded largely because of harsh sentencing of those selling and using drugs, often in ridiculously small amounts. That’s the tip of the iceberg. The ramifications of our drug-related obsessions influence every government from the community to the nation as a whole. We are wasting a frightful amount of money today and every day.

But we could, instead, be applying the funds from this already lost battle to education, AIDS, research, addiction counseling. We could create and teach better drug avoidance programs in school starting at an early age,  we could build more rehabilitation centers, teach addicts about relapse prevention and make the selling of drugs by dealers as antiquated as the marketing of buggy whips. The police efforts could be redirected to inner city safety, or to the apprehension of real criminals, such as the bankers and investors who almost bankrupted the nation. We could tax drugs as we tax cigarettes, liquor and gasoline. And for those who are dead set on staying drugs, let them do so. They’ll die off in a generation.

We tried it years ago with Prohibition. That program, aside from creating a handful of millionaires, was a failure as well. We’ve ignored our own history. Now we’re repeating it.

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