This truly scares me. How can elected representatives of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth be so utterly clueless? One can only hope they know more about running a government than they do about sports.
Last week’s congressional hearing on steroids in Major League Baseball was so pathetic that I have to give everyone involved the benefit of the doubt and assume that they really know better but were spinning the issue in order to keep it from turning into an irritation for the rich people who pull their stings. I also have suspicions about the fans’ desire to open this closet door. I don’t think they want to know; they can’t handle the truth.
For example, the angry politicians demanded that Major League Baseball clean up its act and get steroids out of the sport. They threatened to do it themselves through legislation if the baseball execs won’t. These are hollow words, if not outright stupid.
How is baseball going to cleanse itself of steroids? How would congress do it? How could anybody do it? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has the toughest anti-doping policy in sports and the Olympics are far from clean. The BALCO scandal clearly showed-for those who are willing to look at the facts-that the cheaters are light years ahead of the testers. The only reason the BALCO case even came to light was because a disgruntled coach mailed a sample of a designer steroid so that urine samples could be re-tested for it. That’s the only reason 100 and 200 meter World Championships winner Kelli White was nabbed. The key point to note here is that it was a designer steroid. The cheaters have evolved. They now tweak molecules to beat testing. Anti-doping poeple don’t even know what to look for. Major Leaguers have $100 million dollar contracts these days. They can afford a team of creative pharmacists if they so desire. Therefore, it’s laughable to peek at an all-star’s pee hoping to find some run-of-the mill type of steroid that Ben Johnson was using back in the 1980s. And why hasn’t anyone brought up human growth hormone (strength) or EPO (an endurance booster that would benefit pitchers)?
The tragedy in this mess is not that heroes have fallen from pedestals or that some records are now tarnished. The only real tragedy is when these drugs end up in the bodies of high school kids. Too young to think straight about such a gamble with their health, too many kids can’t resist the temptation. A recent US survey claimed that one million high school students have used steroids. Fighting against this is where the focus needs to be. I don’t care what adult millionaires put into their bodies.
Say it ain’t so, Mark. Retired slugger Mark McGwire was the big loser in the hearing. He repeatedly backed out of the batter’s box when asked if ever used steroids. He has denied it in the past, but under oath Friday, he wouldn’t answer the question.
Politicians and sportswriters rushed to condemn McGwire, but they fail to place his career into proper context-and Jose Conseco’s career too, for that matter. McGwire played when steroids were not against the rules of Major League Baseball. How can they be called cheaters? If you are angry that a drug may have helped McGwire swing his bat like it was a matchstick, then your argument should be with the people who failed to prohibit the stuff, not a guy who seems to have played within the rules.
Imagine this: It’s 1994 and you are a very good baseball player. Take steroids and you might add 15 or 20 home runs to your season’s total. This will take you from star to superstar and translate into many millions of dollars on your next contract. You can hire a doctor to monitor you and minimize health risks. Finally, there is no rule against steroid use and no testing is conducted, therefore using them is not cheating.
Now, what would you do?