One of the first things we thought of when we read in the Times about Bartolo Colon — and the 2010 procedure in which doctors took fat and bone marrow stem cells from Colon and injected them back into his elbow and shoulder — was this Washington Post column by Sally Jenkins, coincidentally written the following month, in May of 2010. In it, Jenkins wrote about how the Anthony Galea case forces us "to ask ourselves a difficult question: What's the difference between doping and therapy?"
We don't mean to suggest that Colon did anything he wasn't allowed to do. (Major League Baseball is investigating the procedure; one imagines their interest was piqued because one of the doctors in question has used HGH in treatments, though he says he's never given it to any of the professional athletes he's dealt with, including Colon.) But we agree with Big League Stew that this could be the beginning of a new debate — not necessarily regarding Colon's individual case, but with how baseball reacts as medical advancements are made. Going forward, how will baseball deal with that question, the one posed by Jenkins: What's the difference between doping and therapy?
Writes Kevin Kaduk:
No matter what baseball finds in its investigation, you can be sure this is the starting point of another debate that has no clear answers — and could also possibly buy a little leeway of those already blackballed for steroid use. While stem cell treatments may not currently be banned by baseball, it would seem that their regenerative effects are similar in spirit to those offered by HGH, steroids and other PEDs. When you really get down to it, what's the difference between Colon staving off old age with this surgery and Barry Bonds doing the same with the cream and the clear? Both bring health risks, but only one has been stigmatized by those who follow the sport.
One wonders — as medical advancements bring new procedures — where baseball, and all sports, will ultimately draw the line, and how they'll determine where to place it.