Among the few revelations to emerge from Tuesday’s Congressional hearings designed to make Miguel Tejada the newest/biggest scapegoat for an entire industry’s quirks was the bombshell that MLB’s rank & file, denied their amphetamines, have now turned to Ritalin and other Attention Deficit Disorder medications. Whether or not “The Simpsons” could’ve foreseen such developments when planning Mark McGwire’s cameo in the “Brother’s Little Helper” episode, we cannot say for certain. For Reason.com’s Jacob Sullum, a better question might be, why do our lawmakers give a fuck? (link courtesy I’m Sorry I Had To Kill That Guy)
The number of baseball players who claimed to need stimulants for attention deficit disorder, and who therefore received “therapeutic use” exemptions from the disciplinary consequences of a positive drug test, rose from 28 in 2006, the year Major League Baseball banned amphetamines, to 103 last year. Rep. John F. Tierney (above, D-Mass.) thinks this sudden, 268 percent increase looks suspicious. “When you see the number 28 one year go all the way to 103, it makes you think that we have a loophole here with performance-enhancing drugs,” he said at a congressional hearing yesterday. You think?
Since Adderall (a mixture of amphetamine and dextroamphetamine) and Ritalin (methylphenidate, a drug with pharmacological effects very similar to cocaine’s) enhance the performance of people diagnosed with ADD, and since Major League Baseball has decided to give medical exemptions to people with that diagnosis, this “loophole” is not an accident; it’s a deliberate policy decision. Presumably Tierney thinks the recent diagnoses are mistaken or fraudulent. But maybe a bunch of baseball players with bona fide, genuine ADD (not the fake kind) were self-medicating until the amphetamine ban and have now decided to come out of the shadows.
Intriguingly coincidental as the spike in ADD diagnoses looks, a more important question is why this is any of Tierney’s business. “We shouldn’t have to have hearings like this all the time to stay on top of these problems with baseball,” he said. They don’t have to, of course, they choose to . They can stop anytime they want. And given that the Constitution does not grant Congress any authority to dictate the rules by which baseball is played, that would be a good idea.
Without a full list of 103 players who received a therapeutic exemption, I’m not at all comfortable with these gentlemen being labeled phonies. Particularly given the social stigma attatched to such disorders as A.D.D., I would prefer to hail these brave young men for having the guts to confront their conditions. What better role models for America’s attention deficient children than a group of elite, highly paid athletes who’ve managed to overcome such serious obstacles?
In a totally unrelated note, former Mets utility fixture Joe McEwing has announced his retirement. There’s not enough Ritalin in the free world to make Joe’s career seem exciting, though it is worth noting that Stupor Joe finished 5th in Rookie Of The Year balloting in 1999, and was hit by a pitch an impressive 10 times in 2001.