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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jeff Passan Exclusive: ‘PEDs Are Going Nowhere’

In which our intrepid reporter is asked the question that is on everyone’s mind:

Baseball Analytics: If you could take a pill that helped you perform your job at such a high level that your earnings would increase 5X would you take it (we promise there will be no side effects)?

Jeff Passan: All right, Morpheus ...

I can’t answer without understanding the other variables. Is this pill legal? What are the moral and ethical implications of taking this pill? What will my parents think of me? My wife? My sons? I imagine the readers would like it, since my columns would improve, but at the sort of price where those who don’t read me accuse me of being a phony and my work a sham? For how long will my earnings increase? And how much more work will that entail, drawing me away from the sorts of things I need to maintain a balanced life?

I do know this: A lot of athletes have said yes without considering such questions because the allure of quintupling one’s salary is simply too great. And I get that. I do. The idea of taking care of generations of Passans appeals a great deal. Tempting enough to not even consider the ramifications. And yet I’d hope the magnet of my moral compass is stronger than that of a dollar sign followed by a number and a bunch of zeroes.

Mike Emeigh Posted: February 12, 2013 at 04:08 PM | 37 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: peds

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   1. AROM Posted: February 12, 2013 at 04:40 PM (#4368172)
If it would quintiple my salary for 5 years, I'd take it. And retire in 2018.
   2. jacjacatk Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:00 PM (#4368199)
Exactly what are the moral implications of taking a pill that has no side effects? That everyone else might also be encouraged to do something that doesn't harm them in order to get better at what they do?

Since it appears that pretty much everyone who's played during the "steroid era" is under suspicion anyway, exactly what downside does he really think athletes have to consider? The real argument against steroids pretty much has to be that they work and they have side effects detrimental enough that people shouldn't use them but feel compelled to do so in order to keep up (which should happen at a rate to negate, on average, the financial incentive for doing them).
   3. Moeball Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:05 PM (#4368205)
If it would quintiple my salary for 5 years, I'd take it. And retire in 2018.


Amen.

The idea of taking care of generations of Passans appeals a great deal.


I know we have seen recent threads talking about athletes that squandered their money - there have been plenty of those - but I was glad when Jim Thome signed his big free agent contract with Philly some years ago. One of the first things he said after signing was that no member of the Thome family - kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. - would ever have to worry about being able to afford to go to any college they wanted to - for generations to come. This is the way it should be - if you sign a contract that pays you tens of millions of $$$ for several years, if you aren't a complete doofus, not only should you never have to worry about working again, but neither should anyone else in your family for a long, long time. Like a couple of hundred years at least. The earnings from the investments should take care of that. Of course, a lot of athletes are complete doofuses, so this doesn't work out that way very often. But it should.
   4. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:13 PM (#4368218)
Jim Thome signed his big free agent contract with Philly some years ago. One of the first things he said after signing was that no member of the Thome family - kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. - would ever have to worry about being able to afford to go to any college they wanted to - for generations to come.

I remember Vernon Wells saying something like that when he signed with Toronto.

And I'm remembering well!
"How can you not be happy?" Wells said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press several hours before terms of the deal were finalized Friday. "Like I said, my family comes first. Obviously this gives me an opportunity to set my family up for a couple of generations. That's the biggest part of this thing. And this gives me a chance to do something special in Toronto that hasn't been done in awhile."

Well, the last part was not true (and I don't know if the first one is, either) but at least he had the intentions to.
   5. AROM Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:14 PM (#4368220)
This is the way it should be - if you sign a contract that pays you tens of millions of $$$ for several years, if you aren't a complete doofus, not only should you never have to worry about working again, but neither should anyone else in your family for a long, long time. Like a couple of hundred years at least.


Depends on how you feel about estate taxes. I'm a rare conservative that thinks the death tax rate should be fairly high. It always struck me as funny when the term 'death tax' was considered shameful political spin. Liberals should have embraced it. Tell everyone they'd rather tax the dead so they don't have to tax the living so much.
   6. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:28 PM (#4368230)
Exactly what are the moral implications of taking a pill that has no side effects? That everyone else might also be encouraged to do something that doesn't harm them in order to get better at what they do?


The obvious moral and ethical issue would be if the pill was only available to a select group. If there was a pill that would quintuple your salary but which cost $250,000 to purchase then the effect would be to make the rich even richer. To avoid an unnecessary political discussion, in baseball one could imagine some sort of ultrafancy steroid working like this. If an effective dose of Super Duper 5X Maxx Steroids cost two million dollars a year then only established stars would be able to afford them. The result would be a stratification of the game, as the 5x Maxx Roiders dominate and have vastly extended careers, while very few newcomers can perform well enough move into their ranks. This would be an obviously bad outcome for baseball, one in which your career numbers was determined by your salary in the year before the introduction of 5x Maxx Roids, or how much money you are able to borrow from high-end loan sharks or what have you.

This sort of magic pill doesn't exist, but neither does a pill that could allow a librarian such as myself to quintuple his salary. (Quintupling my salary would put me at over twice the salary of the Librarian of Congress. I don't see that happening, no matter how good I get at cataloging books.)
   7. Perry Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:37 PM (#4368243)
One of the first things he said after signing was that no member of the Thome family - kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. - would ever have to worry about being able to afford to go to any college they wanted to - for generations to come. This is the way it should be - if you sign a contract that pays you tens of millions of $$$ for several years, if you aren't a complete doofus, not only should you never have to worry about working again, but neither should anyone else in your family for a long, long time. Like a couple of hundred years at least.


Not sure that's a great idea (not that I'd know). Not having to worry about college is one thing, not having to work is another. It's like the George Clooney character said in The Descendants -- you want to be able to give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.

I know a guy who had family money and who as a result never had to work. Wasn't good for him, as a person.

Edit: Fixed a spelling error.
   8. McCoy Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:37 PM (#4368244)
Congrats, you've just stumbled upon the plot of a Bradley Cooper movie.
   9. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4368252)
The obvious moral and ethical issue would be if the pill was only available to a select group.


That is neither obvious nor a moral and ethical issue. At best, it's a strawman that needn't factor into the calculus.
   10. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4368253)
They're asking the wrong question: it's not would you take the pill, it's would anyone pay money to see it? If a pill suddenly let people high jump 15 feet, would it be sport anymore, or just curiosity? You can argue that people still attend now when it's obvious that a lot of guys have been using for the last 20 years, but it hasn't been everyone, and that hasn't been the general public perception.
   11. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 12, 2013 at 05:48 PM (#4368262)
I know a guy who had family money and who as a result never had to work. Wasn't good for him, as a person.


Not arguing having money is absolutely NOT a cause, but it's not necessarily the cause. The guy could just be lazy.

What's the line from Office Space? "Look at my cousin; he's broke, doesn't do ####."

   12. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:04 PM (#4368278)
PEDs are going nowhere.


Phew, because this spring they are going to be in the best shape of their lives!

The earnings from the investments should take care of that.


Of course, because that's worked so awesomely well for many investors over the last 4 years!

I get your point, but managing money is obviously a complicated task. Taxes, investments that look too good to be true and shonky investment consultants have been the downfall of many, many wealthy people. You can't just throw $50mil at someone and expect to have that kind of money for 100 years, it doesn't work like that.

I'm a rare conservative that thinks the death tax rate should be fairly high.


So you don't think it's unfair to tax the money twice, per se? The money has already been earned once and if more wealth has been generated from shrewd investing then shouldn't only the additional wealth be taxed? Or is that how it works already(I know very little about U.S. death/estate taxes)What are the tax rates for this anyway?
I'm not trying to snark, I'm generally curious about your position; I can be swayed if the argument is persuasive....
   13. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:10 PM (#4368284)
That is neither obvious nor a moral and ethical issue. At best, it's a strawman that needn't factor into the calculus.


Why is it a strawman? If there is something that would throw off competitive balance so completely as to quintuple someone's worth, why wouldn't limited access be a moral and ethical consideration? Maybe you could decide that it's not important and go ahead and take the pill, but to call it "at best" a strawman without giving it any consideration is ridiculous.
   14. jacjacatk Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:15 PM (#4368290)
They're asking the wrong question: it's not would you take the pill, it's would anyone pay money to see it? If a pill suddenly let people high jump 15 feet, would it be sport anymore, or just curiosity? You can argue that people still attend now when it's obvious that a lot of guys have been using for the last 20 years, but it hasn't been everyone, and that hasn't been the general public perception.


You don't have to argue it, every player in MLB/NFL/NBA is bigger, faster, and better than they've ever been, and they're all pretty much as popular as they've ever been. As long as whatever medical/nutritional/conditioning/pharmaceutical advances come along are relatively equally accessible so that the level of competition at any given point in time isn't heavily imbalanced, the games will just evolve right along with the athletes.

The NFL's problem with post-concussion syndrome are a possible counter-example, but they don't seem to really be slowing things down (at least not faster than the NFL appears to be trying to adjust the game). I'm given to understand that men's tennis players may be outgrowing the game, not sure what might be being done to address that. Any other good examples?
   15. Walt Davis Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:30 PM (#4368296)
I know we have seen recent threads talking about athletes that squandered their money - there have been plenty of those - but I was glad when Jim Thome signed his big free agent contract with Philly some years ago. One of the first things he said after signing was that no member of the Thome family - kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. - would ever have to worry about being able to afford to go to any college they wanted to - for generations to come.

I think you're missing the fact that often the squandered money is squandered on family. Not just the tales of every relative (and relative's friend and neighbor and ...) coming out of the woodwork but these guys who lose it all are often losing it in businesses they've started up with families and friends. It's a noble dream to help your family but your idiot brother's dream of owning a Porky's themed restaurant chain is still a waste of money.

Buy your mom a nice house, buy your family a nice house, set up a trust to pay college tuition for your kids and nieces and nephews, give money to charity. But otherwise, be Mr. Potter. Your unemployed brother can still crash on the couch in the garage ... it will just be a much nicer garage.
   16. Guapo Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:33 PM (#4368298)
I was thinking about this in the context of Ray Lewis.

You're 37 years old and in your last season. Halfway through the season, you suffer a serious injury.

If you don't take the PED, your career's over. If you do take the PED, you get to come back and play in the Super Bowl one last time before you retire.

I'd take the PED.
   17. Yastrzemski in left. Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:40 PM (#4368304)
I thought they were illegal because they can harm you. Seems that in truth, for adults, under careful supervision and the right cycle, it's not only not harmful - but good for you.

   18. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: February 12, 2013 at 06:41 PM (#4368305)
#16, well of course, most people would. You take a short course of the PED to recover much quicker, you're back on the field in no time and of course no one gives a sh*t about PEDs in the NFL.
   19. Tom Nawrocki Posted: February 12, 2013 at 07:06 PM (#4368326)
If you don't take the PED, your career's over. If you do take the PED, you get to come back and play in the Super Bowl one last time before you retire.


Yeah, I was thinking about that when we had that Ray Lewis-related Bill Simmons thread a couple weeks ago. There was literally no downside to Lewis taking PEDs. If he doesn't take the PED, his career is over anyway. If he takes the PED, fails a drug test, and gets suspended, his career would have been over without the PED, so he loses nothing. The time in which you plan to take the PED is extremely limited, and will stop at the end of the season anyway, so the health risks are negligible.

If it were baseball, he might have some concern about not making the Hall of Fame if he got caught using PEDs, but that's not really an issue for the NFL.

   20. ptodd Posted: February 12, 2013 at 09:53 PM (#4368415)
Depends on how you feel about estate taxes. I'm a rare conservative that thinks the death tax rate should be fairly high. It always struck me as funny when the term 'death tax' was considered shameful political spin. Liberals should have embraced it. Tell everyone they'd rather tax the dead so they don't have to tax the living so much.


The rich don't worry about estate taxes much. They just set up a foundation.. Why do you think almost every player has their own foundation.

Sure, foundations give away some of it and do good, but the tax advantages offset having to spend 3% of total assets on charitable stuff per year especially if the assets are invested and earn more than this (tax free).
   21. Walt Davis Posted: February 12, 2013 at 10:00 PM (#4368417)
You're 37 years old and in your last season. Halfway through the season, you suffer a serious injury.

If you don't take the PED, your career's over. If you do take the PED, you get to come back and play in the Super Bowl one last time before you retire.


Thank god baseball is populated by moral rocks like Curt Schilling, not dirty immoral cheaters like Guapo!*

*Some facts may vary.
   22. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: February 13, 2013 at 03:25 AM (#4368514)
   23. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:04 AM (#4368522)
Passan answering this question with the perspective of someone in his early 30s is a lot different than that of a 18-22 year old kid kid trying to make it baseball without too many other options to get himself set for life. I know my 'moral compass' is in a much different place now than it was then.

   24. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:07 AM (#4368523)
Why would anyone care about taking a PED to recover from an injury? Under strict supervision for a short time period we call that medication.
   25. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:15 AM (#4368524)
So you don't think it's unfair to tax the money twice, per se? The money has already been earned once and if more wealth has been generated from shrewd investing then shouldn't only the additional wealth be taxed? Or is that how it works already(I know very little about U.S. death/estate taxes)What are the tax rates for this anyway?


The Estate tax was a bipartisan answer to the serious issues the country had in the early 1900s. We were headed down a path that was going to have a very small, very wealthy few families with all the money. Thanks to the last 30 years we are back on that course though its not nearly as bad as it was then. Yet anyway.

So they came up with an estate tax, under the idea that everyone should have to make his own way, we didn't want an aristocratic class with generations of family money. Obviously the estate tax wouldn't eliminate that, but it certainly helped and was (is) a very good idea.
   26. Joey Numbaz (Scruff) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:32 AM (#4368526)
Of course the threshold was $1.1 million in today's dollars ($50K), but the loopholes to dodge weren't nearly as easy as they are now either. It's already been watered down way too much.
   27. Bitter Mouse Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:13 AM (#4368554)
Buy your mom a nice house, buy your family a nice house, set up a trust to pay college tuition for your kids and nieces and nephews, give money to charity. But otherwise, be Mr. Potter. Your unemployed brother can still crash on the couch in the garage ... it will just be a much nicer garage.


QFT.

And yeah the estate tax. I have never understood the taxing twice argument. When money "changes states" it tends to get taxed. I get paid (some is taxed). I buy stuff (some is taxed). I die and money goes to the guy living on a couch in my garage (some is taxed).

Why is the third one "taxed twice and evil" but the second one not? Money flowing in should be taxed as income (whether normal income, investments, estate proceeds from guy who owns garage you live in, or whatever). If you want to shelter some of that income (have some that comes in with no or reduced tax rate) that is fine. Money flowing out can also be taxed (sales tax for example).
   28. Flynn Posted: February 13, 2013 at 09:28 AM (#4368560)
Passan answering this question with the perspective of someone in his early 30s is a lot different than that of a 18-22 year old kid kid trying to make it baseball without too many other options to get himself set for life. I know my 'moral compass' is in a much different place now than it was then.


Passan also has the ability to articulate his job in an arguably deceitful way. If he possessed such outstanding moral character he'd use his critical thinking abilities and writing skills to advocate for a charity or for good causes. Instead he writes about baseball for a website. Which means on some level the narcissistic little boy lurks inside him.
   29. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 13, 2013 at 11:07 AM (#4368619)

I can’t answer without understanding the other variables. Is this pill legal? What are the moral and ethical implications of taking this pill? What will my parents think of me? My wife? My sons? I imagine the readers would like it, since my columns would improve, but at the sort of price where those who don’t read me accuse me of being a phony and my work a sham? For how long will my earnings increase? And how much more work will that entail, drawing me away from the sorts of things I need to maintain a balanced life?


I just watched the movie "Limitless" and the thought never crossed my mind that taking the pill that vastly improved his mental capacity was unethical. Would it be unethical to take ginkoba to improve your memory? Other medication? At what point does it become unethical?

My only reservations with PEDs is that they may have negative harmful health effects. If they are completely safe, then it seems to me they are a huge benefit to the game.

So you don't think it's unfair to tax the money twice, per se?


Isn't real and personal property taxed twice? (Sales and property)


I know we have seen recent threads talking about athletes that squandered their money - there have been plenty of those - but I was glad when Jim Thome signed his big free agent contract with Philly some years ago. One of the first things he said after signing was that no member of the Thome family - kids, nieces, nephews, grandkids, etc. - would ever have to worry about being able to afford to go to any college they wanted to - for generations to come.


That's well and good for him. I prefer the Warren Buffett philosophy - he has said no member of his family will ever have to pay for college. But that's all the inheritance they will ever get. He believes in empowering his descendents to make their own money. I tend to agree. It also takes care of the problem of them always hitting you up for money if they know that's all they're getting.
   30. Jolly Old St. Nick Still Gags in October Posted: February 13, 2013 at 11:23 AM (#4368642)
That's well and good for him. I prefer the Warren Buffett philosophy - he has said no member of his family will ever have to pay for college. But that's all the inheritance they will ever get. He believes in empowering his descendents to make their own money. I tend to agree. It also takes care of the problem of them always hitting you up for money if they know that's all they're getting.

My fellow (high school) alumnus Warren Buffett is one of my favorite public figures, but I have to wonder whether he deliberately withheld his knowledge of stocks from his children, which is worth a hell of a lot more than the cost of his three children's college tuition in the 1970's. If so, that really would have been taking his philosophy up a notch.
   31. McCoy Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4368709)
That's all well and good but Warren has already set his kids up for life. His first daughter runs a charity foundation funded by Buffett and her husband ran Warren's charity while they were married and she is on that board. His oldest son is neck deep in his father's company and his youngest might be the most independent out of all of them but I have no idea how much Warren supported him in his musical career.
   32. Moeball Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4368774)
Estate planning has changed a lot over the years. Back in my days in the financial planning world (15-20 years ago), we were frequently using Charitable Remainder Trusts for our clients.

1)Wealthy Person (WP) leaves assets to charity set up in Charitable Remainder Trust(CRT) to avoid probate amongst other headaches
2)WP gets huge charitable deduction on current tax return; is usually too large to use all at once with charitable deduction limitations so there are usually carryovers to apply for years to come
3)Assets in CRT earn income which gets paid out to WP so WP still lives a pretty comfortable lifestyle; BITD when interest rates were higher you could put a bunch of the assets in State Muni Bonds or something like that so the income was tax free for both Fed and State purposes; now interest rates are too low to do that so I imagine a variety of stocks or mutual funds are probably used. This way there is usually dividend income with the added advantage of some payouts as capital gains so the tax rates are better.
4)The real kicker - since WP left assets to charity to get them out of WP's estate - but this also means subsequent generations don't get the assets from WP - is the setup of a separate Life Insurance Trust (LIT). LIT as separate entity does not get included in WP's estate, whereas if WP just had his/her own life insurance policies they would be included. LIT lists offspring of WP as beneficiaries and pays out insurance proceeds at WP's death. This way wealth gets passed from generation to generation without nearly as much estate tax involved. The clients we had who used this sort of strategy often had tens of millions of $ to start with; this method generates enough income that WP can still live comfortably in later years but also provides the substantial income needed to pay the annual insurance premiums on the LIT which is worth tens of millions of $.

I have no idea if CRTs are still used as much these days or if someone has come up with a new way to pass wealth along from generation to generation. Do we have any primates out there currently in the biz who can update on this?
   33. bunyon Posted: February 13, 2013 at 01:31 PM (#4368791)
If I were Buffet, or a Buffet-like person, I would make a lot of noise about not leaving my kids anything, making them work in the summer, paying reluctantly for the college, etc.

Then when I died, I'd leave it to them.
   34. alilisd Posted: February 13, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4369007)
I thought they were illegal because they can harm you. Seems that in truth, for adults, under careful supervision and the right cycle, it's not only not harmful - but good for you.


Well, the reasons for their illegality are probably more complicated than that, but I think what you're getting at is that they are controlled because they can be harmful, which is true. They can be used legally, by prescription, and that is, at least in part, because there can be harmful effects if not used carefully. As to the second statment, it depends on what you mean by "good for you." It would also only apply to adult males, as an AAS cycle would not be a good idea for a female (unless she wants to be a professional athlete/bodybuilder/figure competitor). If by "good for you" you mean you now feel like you're 18 again, yes, I suppose they could be considered to be "good for you." But as they are most commonly used, to build unusually large amounts of muscle and exceptionally high strength levels, I'd say it's arguable about whether that is "good for you" or just a relatively harmless, recreational use. It's a pretty high risk/low reward use though, IMO. You have to deal with all sorts of injections, be very careful of any oral AAS used, monitor blood levels, deal with post cycle recovery, etc.
   35. Walt Davis Posted: February 13, 2013 at 05:51 PM (#4369064)
Well, the reasons for their illegality are probably more complicated than that

I wouldn't say it was complicated. Steroids were originally treated like other standard prescription drugs. In response to a bit of media frenzy over an "epidemic" of roid use among high schoolers, Congress proposed legislation to move roids onto the tougher "Schedule" of drugs. This legislation was opposed by the AMA and many other health orgs but Congress passed it anyway. The health effects of roids are fairly minor as these things go, probably no more risky than anti-baldness meds (not a medical professional but it's the internet so you should assume I know what I'm talking about).
   36. alilisd Posted: February 14, 2013 at 03:55 PM (#4369788)
I wouldn't say it was complicated. Steroids were originally treated like other standard prescription drugs. In response to a bit of media frenzy over an "epidemic" of roid use among high schoolers, Congress proposed legislation to move roids onto the tougher "Schedule" of drugs.


Right. I wasn't trying to say it was complicated just that there was more to it than simply side effects without going into a discussion of media hysteria and congressional over reacation, I mean oversight.

I always assmume you know what you're talking about. :-)
   37. canadian shield Posted: February 14, 2013 at 04:44 PM (#4369827)
McCoy Posted: February 13, 2013 at 12:15 PM (#4368709)
That's all well and good but Warren has already set his kids up for life. His first daughter runs a charity foundation funded by Buffett and her husband ran Warren's charity while they were married and she is on that board. His oldest son is neck deep in his father's company and his youngest might be the most independent out of all of them but I have no idea how much Warren supported him in his musical career.


Musical career...Jimmy Buffett is Warren's son???

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