Baseball & Drugs: A Different Perspective

By Bob Tufts
Updated: December 12, 2007

NEW YORK — Fraudulent statistics are being generated yearly because of the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs. I believe we must crack down on this criminal activity and guarantee that these statistics remain pure and honest, so that we can fairly evaluate and compare those who excel in their fields.

Unfortunately for overexcited sportswriters, fans, and members of Congress, I am not advocating continued heavy-handed investigations of Barry Bonds or a thousand other Major League Baseball players, mentioned by Warren Goldstein (“The Conundrum That Is Barry Bonds,” The Chronicle Review, June 8).

Although I am a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals, what I am advocating against is the unscrupulous and dangerous use by millions of high-school and college students of Adderall, Ritalin, and other substances that have been proven to artificially raise test scores and thereby distort the entire college-admissions process.

I am also advocating on behalf of African-American students who are negatively affected by this crime. This is a true national health emergency and public-policy nightmare that warrants federal action, as families are being punished for obeying the law.

Adderall is classified as a Schedule II drug by the Food and Drug Administration; that makes it more dangerous than steroids, which are Schedule III substances.

Schedule II drugs include opium, morphine, cocaine, and OxyContin. According to the FDA’s Web site, Adderall has a high potential for abuse and can cause severe psychic or physical dependence, even schizophrenia.

A survey of high-school students by the University of Wisconsin estimated that 14 percent to 25 percent had taken academic enhancers in order to get better grades and SAT scores.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimated that 10 percent of high-school students had used similar drugs without a prescription. This means that several million high-school students may have cheated on their classroom and standardized tests.

The use of these so-called study aids has a disparate impact on African-American students. Recent government surveys state that there are approximately 10.5 million white college students and 1.9 million African-American college students.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse found in 2004 that 4.9 percent of white college students and 1.6 percent of African-American college students had admitted using stimulants to study for tests.

It can be safely assumed that the high-school numbers are comparable, and equally biased against African-American teenagers who are applying to college.

We demonstrate great concern when 100 baseball players test positive for steroids, but we avert our eyes when millions of teenagers participate in academic fraud and risk harming their bodies. Our attention and selective moral indignation is focused solely on athletics, a profession where minorities are overrepresented.

We demand harsh penalties and a zero-tolerance policy against these athletes to ensure fairness, but we ignore blatant drug-law violations by millions of upper-class white children and their ethically challenged parents when the enhancement effect is intellectual and not physical.

Many elected officials were able to find time to grandstand during oversight hearings on athletes and steroids. In the process, they did not deal with far more serious national health issues.

Will those on the Democratic side of the aisle who now control the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform find the time to address massive education fraud and racially discriminatory pharmacology, or will they demur because it won’t draw a media swarm and may damage their fund-raising base?

If the committee were acting in a consistent manner, there would be hearings regarding Adderall and demands for mandatory drug testing for students before final exams and all standardized tests.

But I will not hold my breath waiting for the announcement of that event.