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Enhanced Performance: Manny Ramirez meets the Future Farmers of America
I was recovering from a four-hour erection — my caffeine buzz overtaking last night's chardonnay-prozac cocktail — when I heard about Manny Ramirez's suspension from baseball. The news all but ruined my Shasta High School Chess Team drug testing victory party plans.

In case you missed the incessant TV steroidal chatter, Manny goofed visiting a doctor for what he called a "personal health issue." The doc gave the Dodger left-fielder a medication he thought was compatible with Section 8.G.2 of Major League Baseball's Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. It wasn't and Ramirez is now temporarily banished from baseball for a first drug-use infraction. Major League Baseball's drug policy requires a 50-game suspension for a player's first positive drug test, a 100-game suspension for a second, and a lifetime ban for a third. The thought of such stiff penalties makes me check my supply of little blue pills and add more vodka to my Red Bull.

There. Much better.

The Shasta Chess team faired better than Manny. Under a policy adopted by their school district last year, the checkmaters along with the math club, choir, band, symphony, and Future Farmers of America (I'm not kidding) had been subject to random drug tests. Apparently the District was fearful of the type of music, mathematics or animal-husbandry havoc a performance enhanced student might create. Shasta County Superior Court Judge Monica Marlow, however, ruled that the piss-test policy violated the students' constitutional rights. She granted a preliminary injunction barring the District from enforcing the program. Where was she when the Major League Baseball needed her?

Unlike the Shasta ruling report, the news of Ramirez's violation hit like a crack high for the media. Manny was "a steroid cheat," a" dope" and "a rasta-haired drug addict." Manny profiles, Manny picket signs, Manny apologies, and Manny slams aired ad nauseam. Meanwhile, it wasn't completely clear why Ramirez took the doctor's dose of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). Added to baseball's banned substance list a year ago, hCG is a hormone produced naturally during pregnancy. In home-pregnancy tests, it's the positive trigger. It's also prescribed to stimulate female fertility and, on the other side of the ledger, to produce a higher volume of testosterone in men. That's why hCG is used in combination with anabolic steroids.

"When you take steroids, they turn off the body's internal mechanism that makes testosterone," Gary Wadler, a steroids expert told the Washington Post. "So the testicles are basically turned off. They shrink in size, and there is a decrease in the production of testosterone. The way to get around that is to take something like hCG to wake the testicles up."

Maybe Manny didn't want his balls slumbering. I can understand that.

Are Manny and his first place Dodgers being penalized for bedroom problems? Or was his performance enhancer aimed strictly at the field of baseball? We may never know, but why should this kind of punitive action be limited to sports? Why not punish all performance enhancers — farmers, mathematicians and all points in between?

Excuse me. I need more coffee.

OK. Let's go.

Since nearly all writers enhance their literary performance with nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, or schedule 5 drugs, shouldn't they face suspension? Performance enhancement, after all, is an unfair advantage in the major leagues of publication. Shouldn't we carefully monitor an author's literary production, just like homerun production? Are you listening Stephen King? And what about dead writers? If we find out they've been tweakers or poppers or snorters shouldn't we suspend royalties to their estates? Arthur Conan Doyle injected cocaine; Sarah Bernhart, an actress famiiliar with his work, huffed it; Elizabeth Barrett Browning burned opium; William Butler Yates, hashish; and William Burroughs, not be outdone, used cocaine, heroin, mescaline, opium, psilocybin, LSD and cannabis. Shouldn't Grove Press stop sending Naked Lunch royalty checks to the folks in Lawrence, Kansas at least for 100 days?

And what about musicians? Isn't it high time ASCAP and BMI withhold royalties for dread-headed reggae artists and dubsteppers, glassy-eyed jazz icons, liver-impaired country and western heros, and the rock-n-roll suicides of the not-so-distant past. Louis Armstrong smoked ganja. Shouldn't the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation suspend its fundraising and be required to reapply for a 401 C3? Seriously, shouldn't anyone who's ever copped a buzz and had a song in the Billboard Top 100 at least have an asterisk next to their name?

The current policy for our performance enhanced creative society seems to be, unless you do something messy or media worthy, you're just a junky. That's so pre-Ramirez. I see this new code of antidrug ethics applied across the spectrum of role models, be they housewives, politicians, right-wing talk show hosts, ponzi scheme operators, pastors, bloggers, cashiers, Wal-mart greeters, scientists, pharmacists, David Crosby and so on. Put yourself at an advantage by ingesting performance enhancing drugs and you'll be fined and banned from your field of dreams. But let's not stop there.

What about putting yourself at an advantage with a performance enhancing substance like silicon. Miss California USA, Carrie Prejean, underwent breast-enhancement surgery six weeks prior to the Miss USA pageant. That surgery was paid for by the Miss California pageant. Who could possibly argue that Ms. Prejean's performance wasn't enhanced? Aren't we owed a little retribution and compensation? Wouldn't it be reasonable to examine the beasts of every beauty contestant and exact punishment where necessary?

There's a limitless supply of self-satisfaction, legislation and litigation waiting for us once we recognize the spectrum of what it means to be performance enhanced. The whole notion of embellishment, augmentation and enrichment is wired into our DNA. We use drugs to get up, get down, feel young, grow hair, kill pain, sleep, eat, lose weight, gain weight, fly, float and fuck. Performance enhancement is our reason for living — our salvation. In the end, what's God but a performance enhanced mortal? I say, let's get it on.

Or maybe not.

Perhaps the most reasonable solution to the performance enhancement problem is to divide the world into two camps — user friendly and the other. Those of us who enjoy the amped-up play of athletes will be able to watch the Anabolic League broadcasting 24/7, 110% juiced-up sports to a juiced up world. Performance enhanced writers, musicians, ceramic artists, postal workers, comedians, real estate agents, land developers, pilots, truckers, bank tellers, stay at home moms, strippers, CalTrans workers and all "cheater" professions will, at long last, live modified lives in peace, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, free from the forces of intolerance.

Let he who is without enhancement, cast the first stone.

— Nathan Callahan, May 15, 2009


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