Featured Card: 2005 Donruss Elite #184, Carlos Ruiz
Like the rest of Phillies fandom, I was shocked and disappointed over yesterday’s news that Ruiz was suspended for the first 25 games of 2013 for amphetamine use. However, while his suspension saddens me, it does not change my opinion of him as a player. This is because this country (and our culture) is mind-boggling schizophrenic in regards to “stimulants.” We, as a society, willingly go to our kitchens and convenience stores every morning to gulp down whatever stimulant it is we need to get through the day — whether it’s a caffeinated beverage or some form of “energy drink.” A significant number of college students today take Modafinil (Provigil) both to study longer hours during exams and to take advantage of its potential cognitive enhancement properties. Hell, I will be the first to admit that If I wasn’t worried about fucking with my brain chemistry, I’d be seriously considering obtaining by any means necessary fistfuls of Modafinil and popping them like Tic-Tacs in order to make the time I need to do all the things I wish I could.
However, at the same time we guzzle down 5-Hour Energy shots — which are sold as “supplements” and are thus unregulated by the FDA, so we don’t know what is actually in them — we frown upon our athletes using anything that might be performance enhancing. Yet, we paradoxically have no problems with athletes using surgical procedures, such as Lasik and Thermal Capsular Shift, in an effort to gain an athletic edge. So, why are physical procedures okay but stimulants are not? It’s a fine line, and to this day I have not yet seen an argument that convinces me that the athletes should be held to standards that are higher than that of the general population.
In the end, this incident will not change my opinion of Ruiz as a ballplayer. Yes, given that MLB has clearly-defined drug testing rules in place, what he did was very stupid and will ultimately hurt the Philies through the first five-six weeks of the season. However, I refuse to judge him any more harshly than I would any other member of society. Given the amount of money players could earn and the pressure to produce the best numbers possible, I’m surprised this sort of thing doesn’t happen more often, and how many of us in the same situation really would do things differently? If our society chooses to be much more consistent in how we make, market, distribute and use stimulants, my opinions on the matter may change. Until then, I do not view Carlos Ruiz, Manny Ramirez or Lance Armstrong any differently now than I did before any of their suspensions.