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There Ought to Be a Law.
November 21, 2003

by Bill Hogan



Clearly the issue of athletes taking steroids is not going away any time soon. The National Football League recently reported that four members of the Oakland Raiders have tested positive for the new – and previously undetectable – "designer steroid" THG.

It wasn't until the NFL had the ability to identify THG in a player's system that the league classified the drug as a banned substance. Since there is some question as to the validity of testing for a newly banned substance retroactively, these players will probably not be penalized – this time.


By the way, what the heck is a "designer steroid?" I've heard of designer jeans, designer handbags and designer jewelry, even designer golf apparel, but I'm totally confused when it comes to the concept of a designer growth hormone.

It makes sense that a rule that has not yet been established cannot be broken – or enforced. In fact, it stands to reason that, in many cases, rules are written specifically to regulate behavior that is deemed unfair or unacceptable – after the fact.

George Costanza was taken aback when his boss abruptly fired him for having sex on his desk with a cleaning lady. "Was that wrong?" he asked his boss. George pleaded for another chance claiming that he was unaware of any official office policy that prohibited him from getting it on with a member of the janitorial staff.

You know the second George packed up his stuff and left the building the human resource department scrambled to get a formal no-sex-in-the-office policy written into the employee handbook.

Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Committee supported a French ban on the barroom "sport" of dwarf-tossing. A few years earlier, the Florida state legislature also passed a law prohibiting people from tossing dwarves. I'm not sure how many of the other 49 states have followed suit.

I don't know who first came up with the idea of heaving little people across a barroom floor. And it's not clear if the first human projectiles were willing participants but, apparently, picking up a 3-foot tall adult by the seat of the pants and hurling him (or her, I guess) has generated world-wide appeal.

I don't exactly know how such a competition is won or lost – though I suspect distance and accuracy would be part of any scoring criteria. But what does seem obvious – now that this activity has been discovered – is that there would be some opposition to its lawful existence.

Evidently, it's the tossed dwarves that are the biggest opponents to any legal restrictions. Hey, there's money to be made by allowing one's self the brief indignity of being shot-put into a pile of peanut shells in the spirit of friendly competition. And, until recently, the participants weren't breaking any rules.

On November 24, 1904, the University of Tennessee football team beat the University of Alabama 5-0 (at the time a touchdown was worth 5 points). The only score of the game came in the second quarter when Tennessee running back Sam McAllester dove into the end zone.

Perhaps "dove" isn't exactly the right word. Actually, McAllester was hurled over the goal line by a couple of his own players. In fact, the Volunteers drove 50-yards for the game-winning score by tossing McAllester – ball in hand - over the line of scrimmage.

It must have seemed ingenious to the spectators watching the unorthodox offensive attack. Not to mention what was going through the minds of the Alabama coaching staff. The feat was so notable that it is listed on the Alabama athletics website rolltide.com as one of the most memorable games in the long and storied Alabama-Tennessee rivalry.

What leaves me scratching my head about this tidbit of trivia is this: If the tossing ploy worked once for a touch down, how come it didn't work again? What did Alabama do to defend against an airborne ball carrier - simultaneously launch a linebacker to meet McAllester head on?

At the time, there was no rule against throwing the ball carrier over the top of the defense. That changed the following year when the practice became illegal. Who would have figured it would have been necessary to put that rule in the books?

Then again, as long as people are going to come up with off the wall activities like dwarf-tossing and as long as scientists continue to invent undetectable "designer steroids", rule books, law books and employee handbooks will keep growing.


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