Friday, December 14, 2007

If Steroids Are Cheating, Why Isn't LASIK?

Slate Magazine had an interesting article several years ago after the March 2005 Congressional hearings about steroid use in baseball, where Mark McGwire and others were required to testify. The article posed an interesting question, now relevant again with the recent MLB report on steroids: If steroids are cheating, why isn't LASIK eye surgery?

Scores of pro athletes have had laser eye surgery, known as LASIK (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis). Many, like Tiger Woods, have upgraded their vision to 20/15 or better. Golfers Scott Hoch, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, and Mike Weir have hit the 20/15 mark. So have baseball players Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Cirillo, Jeff Conine, Jose Cruz Jr., Wally Joyner, Greg Maddux, Mark Redman, and Larry Walker. Amare Stoudemire and Rip Hamilton of the NBA have done it, along with NFL players Troy Aikman, Ray Buchanan, Tiki Barber, Wayne Chrebet, and Danny Kanell. These are just some of the athletes who have disclosed their results in the last five years. Nobody knows how many others have gotten the same result.

Good question, what's the difference?

Click here to read the full MLB report on steroids.

16 Comments:

At 12/14/2007 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For one, we don't tend to frown upon LASIK in society as a whole. The risks associated with it are small. Steroids have a bubble effect. You may be strong through a long athletic career, but there is an inevitable crash where you will be worse off than had you started in the first place. It isn't something that we want to encourage in youths that seek to emulate these players.

Now, the present value of LASIK is less than simply purchasing glasses and contacts for years on end, so from an economic perspective, maybe it would encourage kids to make poor choices. The effects of LASIK wear off over time, and that deterioration makes it more costly for the average person. On the other hand, if it improves performance and income, the present value of LASIK would be higher, like breast implants for exotic dancers.

 
At 12/14/2007 9:43 AM, Anonymous bob wright said...

So what if society frowns on lasik or not.

Lasik is an unnatural, performance enhancing procedure.

The performance you see on TV of an athlete who has had the LASIK procedure is not that of the natural athlete - the same as with steroids.

What you have here is a distinction without a difference.

The only difference is as you point out: societal perception.

 
At 12/14/2007 9:57 AM, Anonymous gmoney said...

I don't think Tiger Woods will suffer the same fate as Lyle Alzado.

 
At 12/14/2007 10:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is one of the very few posts on this blog that I disagree with. It's a moral issue, not a purely economic one. Do we need to turn a generation of kids into Lyle Alzado and Ken Caminiti?

There are a few (very few) places where the law should trump economics. This is one of them.

 
At 12/14/2007 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm reminded of why I don't tend to post comments on the many blogs I read. Mine was the first post. The second post seems to imply that the only argument I made was one of social *perception*, which, upon another reading isn't true. I noted that the perception exists, but offered an explanation as to why.

Assume that the current state equals 0. With both steroids and LASIK, the short-term results are > 0. With LASIK the person tends to revert back to 0 over time. With steroids the tendency is to fall to < 0. So it isn't about perception, it's more about the relative risks and what we should encourage among youths.

 
At 12/14/2007 12:14 PM, Blogger holeydonut said...

Another issue to think about is that the PGA tour specifically points out that players cannot artificially use tools to measure distance.

PGA Rule 14-3b
Except as provided in the Rules, during a stipulated round the player must not use any artificial device or unusual equipment… for the purpose of gauging or measuring distance or conditions that might affect his play…

If you could use a purely semantical interpretation and say that lasers and eyeball mappings are not natural... and neither are plastic lenses you stick on your eye. It seems to me that artificially improved vision allows you to better estimate distance to the pin.

The common argument is that Rule 14-3b is "stupid." But that's a separate issue to discuss with the rule making body of the PGA. As it stands now, artificial vision enhancement for players that have no medical need for it is breaking the rules.

But the public doesn't view this as cheating because the surgery itself is not federally illegal. I would venture to say that the severity of the violation is allowing the public to draw a distinction between steroid use and laser-aided vision enhancement.

 
At 12/14/2007 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another "Hey! Look over there!" argument. If you want to make a case for banning LASIK for athletes knock yourself out.

I see that tactic as the moral equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and humming real loud.

 
At 12/14/2007 4:14 PM, Blogger juandos said...

First and foremost where is the 'credible' data that steroids are bad?

I have heard all the anecdotal evidence a thousand times over but how about some real evidence?

This whining and the whole sack cloth and ashes routine over steroids is just more nanny statism...

 
At 12/14/2007 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I have 20/15 vision with my contacts in (without lasik), so I do not get your point.

What I do know is you trying to compare someone mutilating their body with steriods to achieve something that is not humanly possible is not the same as someone achieving 20/15 vision with contacts, glasses, or lasik. I even have friends that have 20/15natural vision. We are not comparing apples to apples here.

The problem I have with it relates to giving someone an unfair advantage in which everyone needs to follow. So when you allow steriods in the game then your son, my son, and everyone elses must also take steriods or you cannot compete. I dont know about you but I do not want to be in a society where everyone is strung up on steroids.

To prevent this response from getting too long, I wont go into what happens to peoples body on steriods. Now compare those results to lasik. If you had a choice of getting Lasik or going on steriods, which would you choose?

 
At 12/14/2007 4:59 PM, Anonymous KJ said...

There's a huge difference. Lasik and glasses and contacts correct vision the same.

Steriods allow the body to gain more muscle mass than could otherwise be done. That's why it's cheating.

 
At 12/14/2007 7:44 PM, Blogger juandos said...

Well you all make good points...

"Steriods allow the body to gain more muscle mass than could otherwise be done. That's why it's cheating"...

Couldn't the same definition of cheating (as compared to an earlier era of baseball) also be applied to the clubs that mandated weight training, atheletes' dining table, and special trainers?

Were any of these things available when someone like Babe Ruth played?

 
At 12/14/2007 8:41 PM, Blogger Matt said...

Holy Crap Bob, are you retarded?

How is LASIK performance enhancing??????

LASIK could probably give you a 5-10 foot better eyesight at best, and I bet even that would be a fluke.

So can I play with a handicap if I take out my contact lenses?

 
At 12/15/2007 10:04 AM, Anonymous bob wright said...

yeah, I'm retarded. good one.

 
At 12/15/2007 8:53 PM, Anonymous Deni said...

I think this whole steroid issue is much ado about nothing. This is professional baseball = professional entertainment. Actors get plastic surgery done to enhance their appearance and generate more movie roles. Why not let athletes use steroids? They still have to work out to build up muscles - it is not like adding water to a Chia pet and the muscles magically grow. Yes, there are health risks - but these are adults who can decide what risks to take.

 
At 12/17/2007 1:14 PM, Blogger Thomas Blair said...

Anon 9:28,

You said:

On the other hand, if it improves performance and income, the present value of LASIK would be higher, like breast implants for exotic dancers.

Do steroids not improve performance and income, thus increasing their NPV?

You also noted that LASIK wears off, just as steroids cause eventual deterioration of the body. So why is one "wrong" and not the other?

 
At 10/31/2009 1:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't give you telescopic vision. It's a corrective procedure. Steroids is not.

So can we ban glasses too? Are we going to argue that people who wear glasses are the same as using steroids? They arguable give even better vision than Lasik.

How about people who correct bone deformities. Will we make an analogy that someone correcting a bowled or short leg is the same as using steroids?

 

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