Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Drug Conspiracy

For devoted conspiracy theorists, the ideal conspiracy meets two conditions: (1) the theory is consistent with all known facts; (2) the theory is difficult to refute by any facts likely to become known in the future. I usually don't like conspiracy theories. Yet, the Rafael Palmeiro scandal has stirred the conspiracy theorist in me.

According to news and internet reports, the known facts are this: (1) In March of this year, at a Congressional hearing, Palmeiro emphatically denied ever using steroids; (2) In the same time frame, Major League Baseball announced that it would begin testing all players for steroids; (3) In May, Palmeiro tested positive for the use of the steroid stanozolol; (4) Stanozolol, a steroid used by disgraced sprinter Ben Johnson, is a steroid so strong that is virtually impossible to take unknowingly; (5) Stanozolol typically stays in one's system no more than two months; (6) Palmeiro is in the fading moments of his career, and it has long been expected that this will be Palmeiro's last season.

Collectively, these facts mean this: Within one or two months after denying using steroids before Congress, Palmeiro, a past-his-prime player in his last season, with knowledge that he would be tested for steroid use, intentionally took steroids.

Huh?

Given these facts, Palmeiro's implausibility defense seems a good strategy. Palmeiro said:

At this stage of my career, there's nothing to gain and everything to lose. I would not put my reputation on the line, everything that I've accomplished throughout my career. I would not do that. I'm not a crazy person.
Refusing to believe that anyone could be so "crazy" many people, including Cal Ripken and President Bush, have suggested that Palmeiro must be innocent. After all, no one could be so stupid as to take steroids with knowledge that they would be caught.

So, either Palmeiro is an idiot, or he is innocent, right?

Well, not necessarily. And, look out, because here comes the conspiracy theory. Let's assume for a second that Palmeiro is smarter than your average oatmeal cookie. If so, why would Palmeiro intentionally take steroids knowing he faced testing? One reason: if he believed that testing wouldn't detect the steroid. Yet, Palmeiro would not just guess that the test wouldn't detect the steroid. Presumably, this belief would be based on some source that Palmeiro believed to be reliable. Which leads me to the hypothesis: some steroid-using baseball players have a semi-reliable way to evade detection. In Palmeiro's case, perhaps, it failed.

Now, I get to play conspiracy theorist: Why isn't the evasion method more widely known -- why, for example, isn't there anything about it on the internet? Well, if it were possible to learn on-line, then MLB would know about it, too, and then it wouldn't much of an evasion method, would it?

That's the fun part of playing conspiracy theorist. You can just make stuff up.

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