The Duck of Minerva

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The Mitchell Report and Global Governance


December 14, 2007

Obviously, the Mitchell Report is all the big news in the world of sports, culture, and politics this morning, and is receiving saturation coverage. Rather than try to add my 2 cents as a baseball fan, I thought I might try to tease out an interesting IR angle to the whole thing.

As I was driving home yesterday, I heard Selig in his press conference assert that Baseball had one of the most stringent testing drug policies (now) of any major sport. The radio commentators were discussing this and said, well, if by major sport you mean NFL, NBA, and MLB, then yes. But, compared to the testing at the Olympic level, it has a long way to go.

Earlier this morning, on my way into work, I heard Sen. McCain on ESPN, and they were asking him what, if anything, the government could do about this (and recall that most of the good stuff in the Mitchell Report is the result of government work–the hearing and several drug busts and plea agreements). McCain said (paraphrasing): Not much, except to fund the USADA to improve testing practices and perhaps work more with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

From an IR perspective, I think this raises a rather interesting question–given that there is a robust international organization with a well developed regime of anti-doping rules and norms that apply to international sport, why is it that the major US sports feel that they are somehow exempt or above or beyond these global norms? Past attempts to apply Olympic-level testing to US pro athletes (NHL hockey and NBA basketball players) by the USOC met with resistance from the leagues and players associations of those sports.

So, why is it that the US and US-based organizations place themselves above this global anti-doping norm? Many major international sports have an Olympic-caliber anti-doping regime, which requires tough random testing, and a number of their most significant events have been hit by drug scandals (Tour de France…). As US pro sports go global in an ever increasing way (particularly baseball and basketball), how can they make global inroads and yet flout a global norm on drug testing?

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Dr. Peter Howard focuses on US foreign policy and international security. He studies how the implementation of foreign policy programs produces rule-based regional security regimes, conducting research in Estonia on NATO Expansion and US Military Exchange programs and South Korea on nuclear negotiations with North Korea.