By all accounts, the Mitchell report on the use of steroids in Major League Baseball may go down in history as the most comprehensive investigation of a meaningless and pointless scandal. The fundamental problem with the Mitchell report is that it has only been tasked with investigating what happened, while glossing over the fundamental question: Are steroids in major sports really something that is a problem that should be banned?

By all accounts, the Mitchell report on the use of steroids in Major League Baseball may go down in history as the most comprehensive investigation of a meaningless and pointless scandal. The fundamental problem with the Mitchell report is that it has only been tasked with investigating what happened, while glossing over the fundamental question: Are steroids in major sports really something that is a problem that should be banned?

The question is not unique to baseball, but also applies to the Olympics and the Tour de France and other such events. Simply put, what is wrong with adult athletes using performance enhancing drugs to improve their competitive edge and provide a higher degree of entertainment to the fans?

Thus far, the only explanation I have ever heard for invading the privacy of athletes, and for condemning them for what they put into their bodies, is that steroids are dangerous to the athletes, and somehow create a unfair competitive advantage to other athletes. The first argument is utter nonsense, and simply reeks of Government by Nanny. As to the second argument, it works on the assumption that professional athletes need big brother to level the playing field for them.

Stranger yet, performance enhancing drugs are only banned in sports. Many other people in many other professions routinely enhance their performance in routine ways. Exercising and eating properly and getting enough sleep are performance-enhancing activities for athletes, yet they are not banned.

The sheer hypocrisy of banning performance-enhancing drugs comes from the fact that steroids and such things are not the root cause of evil in organized athletics. The real pollution in organized athletics happens to be big money. The cost of player salaries drives the cost of being a fan through the roof. Fans suffer extreme ticket prices, and are subject to obscene amounts of advertising. In college sports, the myth of amateur status for student athletes permits universities to treat their players like virtual slaves while the schools rake in the bucks. The Olympics have simply become a bloated circus of showmanship.

For their money, the fans are entitled to the best show that organized athletics can offer. If that means that the players want to shoot up vast quantities of steroids for exciting home run derbies and 75 yard touchdown passes, which ultimately adds to the thrill of the game, then fans should be outraged at sport managers who ban the drugs that make these events worth watching. Bring on the East German women swimmers, who used to braid their beards, but who swam like dolphins. The Olympics haven't been the same without them.

A number of years ago, Americans learned the hard way that prohibition is not an effective tool of public policy, or a reasonable use of government power. The entire abortion argument in this country has hinged upon the right of an individual to freedom of choice and freedom from unwarranted intrusion into personal decisions. The entire response to steroids (the use of which mostly scandalizes the prudes, the politically correct and the control freaks), is a blatant invasion into freedom of choice, and a blatant abuse of power of organizations over the individual.

Until such time as it has been proven that steroids and such substances cause harm to the general welfare, the witch hunt against athletes who want to enhance their value in the marketplace should cease.

The war against steroids, like the war against drugs, is more of scandal than the problem it seeks to solve. The amount of time and energy devoted to the issue has been not only a waste of time and money, but a waste of energy that would more properly be directed to solving the problems in our society that really matter.

Rob Meltzer is an attorney practicing in Framingham, Mass.