Time to call the doctor.

Heck, dial several of them. In the wake of M-Day -- the landmark Thursday in which former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell dumped baseball's tawdriness on the public like so much dirty laundry -- the sport really doesn't have any other choice.

It's time for Major League Baseball to consider making performance-enhancing drugs a welcome, and legal, part of its culture.

Lunacy? Perhaps, but no more so than the notion of a 36-year-old pitcher on the downside of his career winning 14 consecutive decisions out of the blue without help. Well, maybe Roger Clemens believes that's what happened in 1998, but after reading the Mitchell Report, the rational among us no longer do.

Of course, Clemens is in the same mode that has infected almost every modern athlete with smoke attached to this fire. Deny, deny, deny. Then throw in the requisite, "I passed every drug test."

Honestly, isn't that so insulting to the intelligence that it makes you want to toss your lunch? All of which, if nothing else, speaks to the cultural ill that exists in the disgraced old game, and the disconnect it has with reality. Commissioner Bud Selig has been prone to stand on his soapbox over the years and preach that the game has never been healthier, and the players never more popular. And judging by the financial books, it's been a pretty good argument.

The Mitchell Report changed that. Yes, there are holes in it, but the one thing it proves beyond a reasonable doubt is this: Baseball has never been more sick, and its players never more shady.

And this is where doctors would enter the picture. And why some serious consideration should be given to this idea. You see, juice will be exterminated from the game about the time universal health care is adopted. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is out of control like a runaway fire, and the testers are the firemen desperately trying to catch up. The magic of baseball's numbers is gone.

So why not take a new approach? Why not take some of that record $6.2 billion in revenue that the sport generated a season ago and establish a central medical office, one that's staffed with the leading experts in the performance-enhancing area that can be made available for players from the majors to high school. After all, investing it in an independent drug-testing organization wouldn't be a cure-all; such an approach by the International Olympic Committee hasn't steered its athletes free of controversy.

Why not take some more of that money and pass it on to some lobbyists on Capitol Hill? Argue to those grandstanding Congressmen that the juicing of players can't be policed, not when the code of the clubhouse is even more impenetrable than that of the Mafia.

Heck, argue that performance-enhancers have become necessary. Seasons start in mid-February and can run as long as early November. Fewer doubleheaders means far fewer days off. A team can play one game at night on the East Coast, then play early the next evening on the West Coast.

In other words, the body is subject to punishment that didn't exist 30 years ago. And this doesn't even take into account the grueling nature of football, hoops and all the other big-time sports, none of which should be discounted because doping is a professional sports problem, not just a baseball problem.

So it is then that it's time, at the very least, for some discussion about an idea that's as radical as the repealing of prohibition once was. And while the juice should not be as easily attainable as alcohol -- make it available only by a prescription from an MLB doctor at the central office with no puny deductible -- why shouldn't it be available for those who decide it's worth the cost? As for what that might be only the experts would know.

Keep this in mind, however. A culture schooled in the convenience of remote controls and online shopping will need far more than some salacious name-dropping to change its spending habits.

Keep this in mind, also. The availability of such everyday drugs as Viagra -- now there's a performance enhancer -- is everywhere, and we keep flocking to them despite the paragraph's worth of risks with which they're usually associated.

It would seem that the greater hazard would be to allow baseball to keep on keepin' on, enabling a culture that forces their players to prove their innocence and causes our athletic sons and daughters to make a choice -- follow the cheaters or go through the back alleys to keep up -- that seems cruel and unusual.

So please, everybody to the table and start discussing it. Maybe the idea is out of the box, but at least it's not status quo.

That, after all, would be the greatest danger of all.

Contact Rick Hurd at rhurd@bayareanewsgroup.com.