Friday, December 14, 2007

Performance Enhancing Drugs in Ultimate?


Dick Pound doesn't look so crazy now... does he?

Did anyone hear about the Mitchell report, which is rocking the baseball world? Of course you did. It listed many former and current major league baseball players who have used performance enhancing drugs. To me, a sport academic and a crazed sports fan, it just left me wondering who they failed to list/mention. (The report was limited because the Senator Mitchell was unable to subpoena or force any stakeholders to talk/participate). Unless you made a slip up at the border, you had a trainer who squealed, or if you failed a test, you were able to avoid infamy.

Roger Clemens Roadtrip!!!
Photo Source: Eyes of the Border

Why did so many people cheat? It's quite simple. J.C. Bradbury does an excellent job of describing Nash Game theory in his book "The Baseball Economist". Here's the gist:

"a solution concept of a game involving two or more players, in which no player has anything to gain by changing only his or her own strategy unilaterally. If each player has chosen a strategy and no player can benefit by changing his or her strategy while the other players keep theirs unchanged, then the current set of strategy choices and the corresponding payoffs constitute a Nash equilibrium.

Stated simply, A and B are in Nash equilibrium if A is making the best decision A can, taking into account B's decision, and B is making the best decision B can, taking into account A's decision. Likewise, many players are in Nash equilibrium if each one is making the best decision that they can, taking into account the decisions of the others. However, Nash equilibrium does not necessarily mean the best cumulative payoff for all the players involved; in many cases all the players might improve their payoffs if they could somehow agree on strategies different from the Nash equilibrium (eg. competing businessmen forming a cartel in order to increase their profits)."


  • Players cheat because they want to get ahead (make more money, do better on field, last longer)
  • Players cheat because they know others may/do cheat
  • Players can't say no to performance enhancing drugs because they are potentially putting themselves in weaker position.
  • Nobody gains any advantage because everyone is doing it
  • Users don't get any more of the $ pie
  • Users are left with the long term side effects of the drugs
  • Those that abstain get punished (Maybe they don't make the big leagues)
  • Everyone outside the cheating players wins (Owners, Fans who like great feats, etc.)
The very fact that owners, teams and fans got benefit from PE drugs lead to the blind eye treatment. MLB commish Bud Selig loved the record setting attendance and the positive buzz that followed the home run chases, the record breaking careers and the money that came into the league as a result. When congress dragged pro sports to the table, it was a rare time that the MLB and its player's union could agree that this would be bad for business.

Okay... so what about Ultimate.

I don't think Ultimate has an steroid or human growth hormone problem. However, I think that if ultimate dreamers (That's right, you're dreamers... keep giving Petro Canada your personal info and signing up to the facebook groups) ever got their Olympic dreams fulfilled, they would be very saddened to find that Ultimate has more of a performance enhancing problem than we think.

It's bad enough if they tested for Performance Delimiting drugs! If our sport started testing (by Olympic standards) we would be surprised how illegal our supplements, pre game pick me ups and other activities are.

Be careful what you ingest. Be careful what you wish for, and don't be naive.

Poll question is.. does ultimate have a performance enhancing drug problem? Comments are appreciated.

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