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Hitting Sports Cheats in Their Wallets

A reader named Christopher Rumney writes in with an interesting idea for how to discourage illicit performance-enhancing drugs in pro sports. Perhaps something like this has already been proposed, but I’ve not heard of it, and it’s certainly an interesting idea — although any players’ union in its right mind would likely rather blow itself up than submit.

Remove 10 percent of an athlete’s salary and place it in an interest-bearing escrow account. If the athlete tests positive for steroids during his career, he loses out on all money paid into that account during his playing days. He would involuntarily make a large anonymous donation to a youth anti-steroid program. If he stays clean, or doesn’t get caught, he gets a large lump-sum payment when he retires — exactly the time when he is most likely thinking about long-term financial security.
I suppose that the reason athletes take steroids is to get a larger contract or extend their careers. This would create a nice balance between any potential rewards of steroid use and potential pitfalls of entering retirement without a nest egg.
Such a program would also increase the danger of taking a banned, but currently unrecognized, form of performance-enhancing drug. Excluding players from Hall of Fame consideration lacks teeth, and criminal prosecutions are over the top. Something in between is needed.