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Lessons on Sport From the Mitchell Report

  • Albert Mohler "The Albert Mohler Program," nationally syndicated with the Salem Radio Network
  • 2008 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Lessons on Sport From the Mitchell Report


January 2, 2007

In the wake of the release of the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball, Albert Mohler interviewed fellow radio host and former major league pitcher Frank Pastore. Frank pitched for the Cincinnati Reds from 1979 to 1985 and ended his career with the Minnesota Twins in 1986.
 
Albert Mohler: I’ve been fascinated by the discussion that has ensued after the release of the Mitchell Report on the illegal use of performance-enhancing steroids in Major League Baseball. Now, I am I’m shocked I guess by the fact that some people are shocked, it seems like this is kind of right out of the movie “Casablanca”. How in the world can you feign or pretend to be shocked at this point, given all the evidence? But I’m also surprised by a lot of the conversation, focused more on the personalities involved, the big names mentioned in this report rather than on the issues.

Frank Pastore: I am a little surprised by how many people are on the list. I expected maybe a dozen or twenty, I mean my goodness what is the count is it 52?

Mohler: I haven’t counted it myself, but it’s well over 50.

Pastore: Wow! Well, I tell you what, my initial reaction is—I’m shocked at how many pitchers are on the list. Typically back in my era, pitchers I mean, you were never to get involved with steroids because it would strengthen your muscles but not your ligaments and your tendons and you’d ended up blowing out a shoulder or elbow. So, with pitchers it was unheard of. I don’t believe a single pitcher back when I ended my career in ’86-’87 was doing it. Really, no one. We knew the regular players that were doing it because they were the double hitters in one season, they’d come back to spring training and gain 30 pounds and all of a sudden they’re popping balls out of the ball park because they had been lifting weights and eating right … yeah!

Mohler: Wheaties, Frank, Wheaties.

Pastore: We didn’t do that. I’m shocked by how many pitchers are on this list.

Mohler: I wouldn’t have known to think like about that. You’re shocked by fact the pitchers are there and some big name pitchers.

Pastore: Oh, huge! Andy Pettitt, Roger Clemens and the list goes on. And I’m just wondering … Oh my gosh! Where do we go from here now? Of course there’s the stigma on the game. I just feel sad. As an ex-major league player for eight years, I’m saddened that this is has occurred. It’s an insult. It’s almost like a family sin that is now out of the closet. But, in a good sense, now that it’s out of the closet, let’s clean it up.

Mohler: Alright Frank, before we get to the cleaning up I want us to get to what’s wrong here. There are a lot of Americans who are out there saying “This is wrong. This is scandalous.” As a matter of fact, George Mitchell, never actually said why this was wrong. He said it broke federal law and baseball policy. Well, that isn’t going to convince Americans. It certainly is not going to convince a 16-year-old high school player.

Pastore: Right.

Mohler: That it violates that rule. Why is it wrong to use these substances?

Pastore: It will kill you and destroy your body number one, set aside the moral argument of cheating, because the rebuttal to that is, “Well, then let everybody do it. Let’s just start a new sport where any illegal activity you want to get involved in—all steroids—are okay. Let’s not even test for them.” Sort of what pro wrestling had become, right? Let’s set that aside.

Let’s get down to the fact that this destroys you and it kills you. It is terribly dangerous to the human body. When I have gone in front of young athletes and I ask them this question: “Would you be willing to sacrifice 10 or 15 years of your life if you were guaranteed the gold medal or to win a Cy Young or be a star running back in the NFL? Almost every single athlete says ‘yes.’”

Mohler: Willing to make the trade?

Pastore: Be willing to make the trade for 10 or 15 years off your life, die at 60 rather than 75, if they could go into the Hall of Fame, or become a world class athlete.

Mohler: You know, and just to put it bluntly … there are some real messages being given to young men about this, about the dangers of it. As a matter of fact, on the Internet I quickly pulled down a brochure given to high school athletes, male high school athletes. Anyway, one of the things it notes is that you’re likely to have shrunken testicles and reduced reproductive ability. Now, I think if you’re talking to teenage guys, you’re likely to catch their attention with that. Evidently not.

Pastore: Well, let’s hope that as a result of this entire investigation and what Major League Baseball is going to do in response, that we just stigmatize the use of steroids for young athletes at the high school level. I think the story you may be referring is out of Texas where they are going to do random testing in high schools, and they have been doing random testing for steroids among high school athletes because football is such a big deal there. Maybe that’s the direction we go for awhile.

Mohler: Let me ask you another question because you are also theologically trained, we’re Christians in this conversation, we’re going to be explicitly so. We believe that human beings aren’t mere machines, that indeed we were made by a creator in His image. We believe, as Christians, that indeed we are to worship God with our bodies—in the sense of understanding that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. And that liberates human beings from worshiping the body itself, rather understanding that we are to inhabit our bodies for the glory of God. Now there are a host of ethical issues to relate to that, from obesity to lack of exercise and the use of performance enhancing drugs on the other side. Let’s just focus on that issue for a moment and say, “You can take this drug and it won’t cut years off your life.” Would it still be right to endlessly pursue some kind of human enhancement?

Pastore: Well, I think I’m going to surprise you with my answer. If it were not, on the long term, harmful to your body and everyone was allowed access to it, it would be considered like a vitamin, right? The problem is this is illegal and it is incredibly harmful to your body, and there are long-term health benefits. I appreciate your hypothetical, but the reality is no, it’s terribly harmful. That’s why the government has chosen to make it an illegal substance and it is cheating. It’s like corking your bat, it’s like pine tar on the baseball it’s in that category but worse because young kids are starting to do it and they’re ruining their lives as a result.

Mohler: I really did not know how you would answer that question. I have some concerns, given the hypothetical there, that many people think there are no limits on human enhancement. When you start looking at longevity technologies and all the rest of this cryogenics, you’re looking at some pretty macabre, strange, weird stuff. Most of us would at least respond with what Leon Kass calls the “yuck factor”—it doesn’t look right, smell right, feel right.

Pastore: Exactly right!

Mohler: But when it comes to these performance-enhancing drugs, I want to ask you another question, because you made it to the big leagues, you pitched for the Reds, and for the Twins. I think the mythos of American sport—and let’s just deal with a boy who wants to play baseball—is it that if you work really hard and you have some innate ability you can press forward and you might have a chance. Do these drugs mean these guys aren’t working hard?

Pastore: Oh, no. It doubles the workout. For instance, you take two identical physical specimens and one is on steroids, the other is not. When you do your weightlifting and you are on steroids, it doubles and triples your ability to gain muscle mass. That’s where it’s cheating.

Mohler: And when you know how competitive these positions are you know it would be really hard not to do it when you know the guy who is gunning for your job is doing it.

Pastore: And that’s why we must make it illegal and must get the message to young children that this is terribly dangerous, and will not be tolerated.


In addition to being one of Salem’s nationally syndicated radio talk show hosts, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is the president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky and recognized as one of America’s leading theologians and cultural commentators. Contact Dr. Mohler at mail@albertmohler.com.