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Touching Ethical Bases

Cheating has always been a part of baseball. Whether players corked their bats, smeared Vaseline on their caps or stole signs from the catcher, the game has never been entirely free of a certain sly trickery. So why should we greet the news of the proposed suspension of Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees for use of performance-enhancing drugs with more than a shrug of the shoulders? Players cheat and sometimes get caught. That is just part of the game.

Or is it? The former Major League Baseball commissioner Fay Vincent makes a bracing call for accountability in The Wall Street Journal (8/5) and in an interview with America. In an op-ed article arguing for a “one strike and you’re out” policy for players caught using performance-enhancing drugs, Mr. Vincent makes the compelling case that rules must be observed and enforced in sports. “It may seem odd to contend in a world often saturated by moral relativism that there is such a thing as an immoral act,” Mr. Vincent wrote. “But cheating at games...is wrong, and we had better begin to say so.”

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For Mr. Vincent, this includes all forms of cheating, from the corked bat to the oversized slugger taking steroids. “There is no such thing as an innocent form of cheating,” Mr. Vincent told America in a conversation available as a podcast. Talking about right and wrong—instead of some mammoth home run—may seem like a drag in the age of ESPN’s “Top 10 Plays.” Yet if sports fans cannot have this conversation now, especially with their children, then when can they have it?

Reservations on Alcohol

Is prohibition an effective tool for limiting the availability and negative effects of alcohol? This might sound like an outdated question, but it is relevant and timely for about 100 Indian reservations across the country where prohibition remains in effect. After weeks of fierce debate, members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota on Aug. 13 voted 1,843 to 1,683 in favor of legalization, and the tribal council is expected to lift the ban officially. Alcohol has been outlawed in Pine Ridge, one of the largest and poorest reservations in the country, for nearly all of its 124-year history.

Pine Ridge already is plagued by higher-than-average rates of alcoholism, domestic violence, suicide and birth defects; some believe legalization will only further exacerbate these problems. Alcohol has always been readily available to tribal members willing to drive or walk to nearby Whiteclay, Neb., but the tribe’s official ban on alcohol represented at least a clear stance against the devastating effects of alcoholism. Some tribal members view passage of the referendum as an attack on Lakota identity and values.

Still, the tribal council is deliberating how to implement legalization. Only the tribe will be able to sell alcohol, which will maximize revenue. The current plan, as reported by The Rapid City Journal, is to invest the profits equally into detoxification centers, treatment and counseling programs, youth programs and local community projects. The tribal government, through a transparent accounting of funds, can make good on public trust by ensuring this kind of investment in the common good. Legalization alone cannot and will not fix the myriad problems facing Pine Ridge, which are the result of a complex political, social and cultural history. But legalization represents a new opportunity for the tribe to address alcoholism and its effects in a comprehensive way.

For Better or Worse

The story has become all too familiar to American voters: an accusation, a denial, a confession, an apology and then, of course, the campaign. In the case of former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, this cycle has played out at a rapid pace. And while the New York City mayoral candidate has continued to lose supporters along the way (he dropped to fourth place in the latest Quinnipiac poll), one person has notably remained by his side: his wife, Huma Abedin. It is a fact that frequently has been noted with disdain by columnists and constituents alike.

Many have speculated about Ms. Abedin’s reasons for staying married to a man whose actions have brought public (and pun-filled) humiliation to their family: Is she staying with him out of love? Is it a political move? Is she just naïve? Yet, unless Ms. Abedin, an aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, addresses these questions directly, the only possible answer is: We don’t know. And that’s O.K.

A marriage exists in the context of a community, and some might argue that the couple could hardly be surprised by such criticism after placing themselves back in the spotlight so soon after Mr. Weiner’s snapshot-filled scandal. Yet no one deserves to have the inner workings of his or her relationship dissected and analyzed by a voyeuristic public. Little can be gained. Any marriage, whether between two public figures or two little-known neighbors, is infinitely more complex than an outside observer can understand. The promises made to the American voters are our business; the promises the couple made to each other in marriage are theirs.

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