By The Common Man
Yesterday, we learned that George Brett and his company are being sued for making false medical claims about "Ionic Necklaces," which are similar to the Phiten necklaces that MLB players have been wearing since 2010. Brett's necklaces, according to Brett, "help customers relieve pain in the neck, shoulders and upper back, recover from sports fatigue and improve focus. The company has also falsely claimed its bracelets, which include two roller magnets, would relieve wrist, hand and elbow pain, the lawsuit said."
Phiten's product, meanwhile, supposedly "helps to promote stable energy flow throughout the body. The benefits of this are longer lasting energy, less fatigue, shortened recovery time and more relaxed muscles” using "aqua-titanium technology" according to the product description.
So, magnetism and metal dispersed in water. That's what these guys sell to athletes. In return, the products are supposed to boost athletic performance by helping move energy around, or promoting healing, or energizing your particles, or some such nonesense.
Here's The Common Man's question: Isn't that what Performance-Enhancing Drugs are supposed to do? Steroids and HGH are both ways for athletes to gain a competitive advantage on their opponents with the aid of technology and chemistry. Isn't this the same thing, except delivered in a fashion accessory rather than a needle?
The Common Man knows what you're going to say: "But TCM, these are ridiculous items. There's no way that they actually work. This is medical quackery at its finest."
To which, TCM will gladly say, you're absolutely right. There's no way that these actually work as advertised. They are part of a long tradition of elixirs, radium pills, vibrational energy, and more that "doctors" have used to con people out of their money with empty promises.
And yet, as study after study has shown, there is no evidence that steroid use leads to additional power in hitters, nor better performance in pitchers. And there's no evidence that PEDs have allowed players to actually heal faster and get back on the field sooner. For more information on this topic, by the way, this is the gold standard of websites on the effects of PEDs, but it will take you forever to get through it all.
There may be a psychological benefit to using "PE"Ds, but there's clearly once to using the necklaces as well. Otherwise players wouldn't wear them and stick by them. The players feel more confident with the necklaces on. When, then, they perform well, they attribute their improved performance to this ridiculous jewelry.
And even if there was an actual benefit to "PE"D use, and not to using the necklaces, the intent of the players using them is exactly the same. They are trying to augment their natural abilities. Perhaps it's not against the rules to wear these necklaces, like it is to use steroids, but the same principles apply. After all, we don't give attempted murderers a pass just because they suck at killing people.
So why are these players not stigmatized? Because they're stupid or are dupes? What does that have to do with their motives and their behavior? Are they too stupid to tell right from wrong? Of course not, especially when you consider that the necklaces are actually worn by some of the smartest guys in the game, like CJ Wilson and Curtis Granderson.
All of this is not to excuse steroid or HGH use. Nor is it to condemn the fools who use these ridiculous products. All athletes seek a competitive edge. And many of them will go to any legal means to get it. Some of them will break the rules to do it. But the principle is the same. So if you're going to punish players for using then-legal substances that weren't banned by baseball until 2003, you need to similarly punish Felix Hernandez and Justin Verlander because of their fashion choices. After all, what's really the difference?