Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What do Ian Kinsler and Andres Torres have in common?

1. Both are major league baseball players.  Kinsler is an All-Star 2nd baseman for the Texas Rangers, and Torres is a speedy outfielder who often leads off for the Giants.

2. Both have ADHD and take medication to treat it.

3. Both have (reportedly) attributed their major league success in part to their use of medication.

Amphetamines are illegal in baseball.  This was done mostly for player safety reasons, PR reasons, and in the interest of fairness.  Steroids were banned for similar reasons, and we all know how prohibitive the current climate for steroid and PED use is in baseball.  But some amphetamines aren't illegal for some players.

I've found no shortage of articles and book citations detailing the alarming ubiquity of "greenies" in clubhouses since the '70's.  Some prevalence estimates put stimulant use way above steroids, yet steroids seemed to get all the bad press: the Mitchell Report, McGwire, Bonds, Conseco, Palmero, BALCO, Roger Clemens still lying right now ... all that bad stuff.  Steroids also got all the credit for the great home run race of 1998.  As if better talent, advancements in technology, training, and ... other stuff, had nothing to do with it.

The last thing I want to do is say that one drug is more ethical than another in baseball.  To qualify that, you'd need to know whether one was more or less helpful, and therefore perhaps, more or less unfair to use illicitly.  I've never juiced up or tweaked out and stepped into the batting cages so I can't say from firsthand experience, but let's just say they both impart some advantage to the user.

[Interestingly, according to the MLB/players-union agreement, the two substances have different penalty scales for repeat offenders, with amphetamines getting lighter sanctions: 50 games, then 100, before you're third strike and lifetime ban for steroids; with amphetamines you get a mulligan on your first offense, then 25, 80, then additional punishment including a lifetime ban).]

And I don't want to get professional athletes in trouble if they in fact do have legitimate affective disorders where medication is prescribed.  (Especially Torres, who just jacked a decisive home run against the Rockies tonight for my San Francisco Giants in the midst of a playoff push).

But isn't there clearly a double-standard here?

The reason why Torres and Kinsler are allowed to use Adderall—a banned amphetamine medication—is because of the MLB's "Therapeutic Exemption Clause."  The ban seems to have been enforced (or possibly merely amended) in 2006.  At that time, according to USA Today, there were 35 exemption clauses, of which 28 were for ADHD medications.  Today there are 111 players playing with exemptions, and 103 are for ADHD.

My work says that students are often doing what people already suspect: faking ADD/ADHD to get drugs that help them perform.


The Kinsler tip comes from my brother Mike's Pa Carl, who is an avid Ranger fan.  I was watching the Giants game at home on 8-13 and Kruk' and Kuip's field broadcaster cut in to deliver the following: "Andres Torres was a track star in Puerto Rico, and says it took him a while to develop as a hitter, but there's another reason why he got it going late: he was diagnosed with ADD in 2002, but didn't start taking medication until 2007 during his 2nd stint with the Tigers organization ..."

Looking at Torres' career stats, the highest he batted was .220 (168 at-bats in 59 games in 2003) from there it looks like he struggled in 2004, went to, hmmm, Texas, got sent down to the minors for a couple years before coming to the Giants in 2009 where he batted .270.  This year he's .284.

For guys like this, it's possible ritalin can make or save your career.  Torres' 2010 salary is $428,000.  And all you have to do is tell a doctor you can't concentrate?  Who wouldn't do that?

No comments:

Post a Comment