Ethics Quote of the Week

“You gotta understand, there were only 28 people who had my job in the whole world. And thousands of people wanted those jobs, and every year, there were guys trying to take my job. So I needed to do anything I could to protect my job, take care of my family. Do you have any idea how much money was at stake? Do you?”

Former Mets and Phillies star Lenny Dykstra, explaining why he used banned and illegal anabolic steroids throughout his career

The Dykstra quote is from 2008, though it has only recently surfaced in Randall Lane’s soon to be published book, The Zeroes: My Misadventures in the Decade Wall Street Went Insane.

Some commentators have cited the quote sympathetically, as it is a rarity, an explanation for why an athlete cheated that doesn’t rely on rationalizations (“Everybody else was doing it!”), ignorance (“I just took what my trainer gave me!”) or pity (“I was injured, and just trying to get healthy.”)

Not me. Dykstra admits that he cheated for the money, and justifies it by emphasizing how much money it was. Similar explanations could be have been made by Bernie Madoff, Klaus Von Bulow, or Al Capone: they swindled or murdered the same reason. If your ethical values are for sale, then they aren’t really your ethical values; they are just comforting aspirations waiting to be rejected. Dykstra said he cheated out of greed and self-interest. That’s why all cheaters cheat. The fact that he cheated to make a lot of money doesn’t change a thing, and the fact that he thinks it does only proves what was already obvious: Len Dykstra is has a limited comprehension of right and wrong, if he has any at all. Dykstra forfeits all right to sympathy by playing the family card, as if it is somehow virtuous to cheat to take care of his family, when his cheating unfairly prevented other men from taking care of their own families.

The fact that Lenny Dykstra is relatively straightforward about how unethical he is simply suggests that he doesn’t have the decency to be ashamed of himself.

[Thanks to Craig Calcaterra, whose blog post alerted me to the quote. Craig also made it his Quote of the Day, but to make a different point.]


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