Three strikes

October 02, 2005

If there was doubt that baseball is a near theological enterprise, consider last week's Congressional passion play on drugs in the game. A supper table of Hall of Famers showed up to lend moral authority to the call for much stricter drug testing for today's players - to better insulate these young gods from the temptations of modern chemistry.

Actually, there's a rational, though unpopular, argument against drug testing athletes: Let them use their talent, training and whatever else they can find to enhance their performance. With any testing, there will always be cheaters. So this is the only way to ensure a level playing field. Anything should go - at least by this logic.

That is, of course, downright sacrilegious for many sports fans, particularly fans of baseball, with its rich history. (Witness Rafael Palmeiro's rough tumble from grace.) So Congress is threatening the true lords of the game, the 28 clubs' owners who for years marketed players' enhanced prowess, to come clean. And the owners are leaning on one of the world's strongest labor organizations, the players' union, which somehow thought this was only a flap over work rules.

Given the dominant view that it's just wrong for athletes to bulk up on drugs, then the testing regime resisted by the union - three violations and you're out of the game - seems almost generous. Any player who would suffer two suspensions and then commit a third violation would have problems that transcend sports. With the regular season's end today, the union simply ought to declare defeat. Fans can then return to praying for their teams, not the game itself.

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