These days, over Bryant’s right wrist also rests a fat postgame ice wrap roughly the size of rookie guard Andrew Goudelock, Bryant trying in vain to minimize swelling after acting on the court as if there isn’t a torn ligament in there.
Bryant has been taking a numbing injection to that wrist before every game in hopes of performing normally. Yes, it’s that bad.
He does not want to publicize all the details of his wrist, which is usable only because the bones were not moved permanently out of alignment without the ligament to hold them in place. But it’s now clear just how problematic the wrist is, and it’s fair to wonder where all this will take Bryant.
Bryant walked out of Staples Center on Tuesday night with something that looked like an oven mitten over his right hand and wrist. He wears an immobilizing brace over the wrist when off the court, meaning take-for-granted parts of life such as texting on his phone or zipping his fly become rather challenging.
I’m not sure if the fly-zipping example was a reference to the alleged infidelities that allegedly led to his recent, actual divorce proceedings, and I also am not here to offer any speculation on what’s going on with the German doctor who treated Bryant and Alex Rodriguez.
My question has to do with the wrist injections, referenced above, that “numb the pain and allow Bryant to perform normal tasks, such as ball handling and shooting“: why isn’t this injected substance a performance-enhancing drug?
I admit that I drifted through the days of Sosa and McGwire, Barry Bonds, BALCO, the Mitchell Report, international cycling, Roger Clemens, Mrs. Roger Clemens, blood-doping, B-12, the cream and the clear, the IOC, Manny, and female fertility drugs pretty uncritically and without taking time to understand the particulars. The story– as told by Bob Costas from on high and the local grubbers down low– was pretty boring.
Moreover, and importantly, the predicate facts were never restated or reexamined. It was sort of like the coverage of the 2008 economic crash. If you tried to jump on board and figure things out later on, it was too late. Everything had become shorthand, and there was no hope of figuring out what buzzphrases like “credit default swaps” and “subprime mortgage lending” meant at that point, thereby rendering the reportage pretty meaningless to someone actually trying to figure out what was going on. The same thing happened with STEROIDS, and the now popular, broader term PEDs, or performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t even know if steroids are illegal in the real, outside-of-sports sense of illegality. Is it a prescription thing? Not readily apparent to me.
In attempting to discern the predicate qualifiers for what will and what won’t cause a sudden public outrage, the dividing line of acceptability sometimes seems to be whether a substance aids the healing of an existing injury or protects against future injuries (the former being acceptable, the latter not). Thus Bryant’s reactionary injections are ok and Bonds’ preemptive steroids are not. But what about things like vitamins and supplements, or even thirst quenchers? An especially healthy diet? Hyperbaric chambers?
The fact is that a lot of things enhance athletic performance. Some are legal, some aren’t generally objectionable. It’s ok to draw a line, allowing some performance enhancers and not others, but the way we draw that line ought to make sense. I’m not sure it does right now, though. And if we’re going to draw a line (and we have), we probably should stop calling the objectionable substances “performance-enhancing drugs.”