San Francisco Giants relief pitcher Jeremy Affeldt recently announced his retirement from Major League Baseball after playing for 14 seasons. There are certainly a lot of things for Affeldt to like about his baseball career not the least of which is being paid $40 million to play a child’s game. Yet there are several things that Affeldt doesn’t like about baseball. And steroid users are near the top of that list.
In an article for Sports Illustrated’s The Cauldron, Affeldt discussed the top five things he won’t miss after his retirement from baseball. The steroid issue ended up being number two on his list.
In a self-righteous rant against steroid users, Affeldt predictably wanted to make it perfectly clear that he has never used anabolic steroids or any other performance-enhancing drug (PED). Affeldt also prefaced his rant with the assertion that steroids really aren’t such a big problem anymore as “Major League Baseball is 100 times cleaner now” than it was when he first stepped up to the Majors back in 2002. Forty percent of players may have juiced back in 2002 but Affeldt just knows it is a lot less in 2015.
Affeldt apparently also has the answer to why athletes use anabolic steroids and PEDs.
“I don’t believe in using drugs to gain a competitive advantage, even though I know exactly why so many players did it,” Affeldt wrote in the Sports Illustrated essay.
If anyone expected an enlightened response to his rhetorical question, they will be disappointed. Affeldt could have discussed the fact that the majority of steroid positives in MLB come at the expense of players from Latin America even though foreign-born Latinos represent only a quarter of MLB players. Affeldt could have discussed how most of these players come from extremely impoverished backgrounds. Affeldt could have discussed the desperation of the talented young men in places like the Dominican Republic who will do whatever is necessary to sign a MLB contact and put food on the tables of their family, extended families and local communities. This would be a logical explanation for why many of the players started using steroids. However, Affeldt has a different answer.
“It was selfish of them, though, and unfair to those of us who weren’t doing it. By inflating (or, in the pitchers’ cases, deflating) their numbers, PED abusers were taking food off my table, rendering my accomplishments and statistical achievements less meaningful – and certainly less useful when negotiating my contracts,” complained Affeldt.
There you have it. In Affeldt’s self-centered world view, athletes who use anabolic steroids are selfish cheaters. There is no relativism. The Latinos who use steroids are taking the food off the tables of non-steroid users like Affeldt. Affeldt, who has earned $40 million over the course of his career, thinks he is far more deserving. That food belongs on Affeldt’s table and not on the tables of those poor people in the Dominican Republic.
Affeldt’s animosity towards steroid users does not result from a hatred of poor people or Latinos. Affeldt is one of the most conscientious MLB players who has used his celebrity as a MLB player to raise awareness of the struggles of poor and marginalized groups living in our society. He’s an outspoken advocate against poverty, human trafficking, slave labor and other forms of social justice. He and his wife founded a charitable organization called “Generation Alive” to teach children to have compassion for those who come from backgrounds of extreme poverty.
Yet when it comes to steroids there is no moral relativism for Jeremy Affeldt. There is right and there is wrong. Clean athletes are good. Steroid users are evil. The food belongs on the tables of the clean athletes no matter what.
But before you pigeonhole Affeldt as an ardent anti-steroid crusader hellbent on stopping steroid use in sports by whatever means necessary, Affeldt throws us a curve ball and defends his fellow athletes against the undignified methods used by anti-doping officers to catch steroid users especially the undignified process of peeing in a cup for doping control officers.
“For example, spending a weekend playing at altitude in Colorado leaves players dehydrated, so when MLB’s testing officials show up at 11:30 p.m. after the Sunday night game has ended, it’s literally impossible to provide them with the mandated urine sample. When ya’ gotta go, ya’ gotta go, but when you can’t … you can’t,” Affeldt complained. “That forces the player to stay in the bathroom, being watched like a hawk, for as long as it takes to do his business. There is no dignity in that, but remember: per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, failure to take the test is the same thing as failing the test.”
At least Affeldt shows a little compassion for the players who have to endure the horror of trying to pee in a cup while another man closely watches. But God forbid he does anything but categorically condemn Latino players or any others who, based on their own sense of legitimacy and illegitimacy, make the choice to use steroids.
Davis, S. (October 1, 2015). Retiring Giants pitcher says players using steroids hurt his contracts and took food off his table. Retrieved from http://uk.businessinsider.com/jeremy-affeldt-steroids-baseball-2015-10