One thing we have learned from the performance enhancing drug era of pro sports in America today is that if you admit your guilt, you can be forgiven.
A plethora of athletes, in both Major League Baseball and the NFL, have been caught cheating over the past few years.
Many, if not most, of the abusers’ identities have been either forgotten or simply disregarded by fans and the media.
The two greatest baseball players of the modern era, slugger Barry Bonds and ace pitcher Roger Clemens, have been caught using performance enhancing drugs. Both men went in front of a congressional committee, and under oath, claimed to have never used PED.
Bonds was indicted by the federal government on perjury charges after the revelation of positive drug tests in 2003 contradicted his testimony. Without a miracle or some nifty legal work, Barry Bonds will forever be known as the king of the steroid era. His image and reputation are tarnished forever.
Mark McGwire, the first man to surpass Roger Maris’ 61 home run season, chose to plead the fifth at his congressional hearing, which was as good as admitting his guilt.
Where is Big Mac now? Certainly not in Cooperstown.
Roger Clemens, the seven time Cy Young award winner, was voted as the greatest living pitcher by a panel of 32 ESPN analysts in 2006. Now, in 2008, he finds himself in the same fight that Bonds has been fighting for years.
When he was brought in front of Congress, Clemens vehemently denied the allegations from former trainer, Brian McNamee, that he used PED. Even after Andy Pettitte, long time friend and workout partner, confirmed the information in McNamee’s report regarding his past HGH use. He told the committee that Clemens was also an abuser, Rocket stuck to his story.
I guess it’s better to go down swinging.
With Clemens on the verge of sinking as dramatically as Bonds did before him, it got me thinking about other PED abusers in MLB and the NFL that have admitted their faults and escaped their tarnished image.
Rodney Harrison, the inspirational leader of the Patriots defense, was suspended for the first four games of the 2007 regular season after admitting to federal investigators that he knowingly purchased and used HGH. According to federal agents, Harrison also received a shipment of HGH with his name on it days prior to the 2004 Super Bowl.
Harrison is currently the only player in NFL history to amass 30 interceptions and 30 sacks during his career. Has his past abuse of HGH tainted his image as one of the fiercest hitting safeties to ever play the game? I don’t think so, but you can be the judge.
Similarly, Shawne Merriman, the 6'4'', 270 lb. linebacker of the San Diego Chargers, was suspended four games during the 2006 season after testing positive for use of anabolic steroids. Despite only appearing in 12 games, Merriman finished as the league leader having 17 sacks.
He finished third in the defensive player of the year voting and left the winner of the award, Jason Taylor, appalled that he was even considered for the honor.
Like with Harrison, NFL fans have forgiven and forgotten the incident, as Merriman is widely considered one of the best outside linebackers in the league with 12.5 sacks in 2007.
While there are many cases in the NFL where a player maintains his legitimacy after testing positive for PED, several MLB baseball players have also tested positive, apologized, and have gone on to continue their careers.
Jason Giambi was named in 2003 by federal investigators as one of the baseball players that received anabolic steroids from Greg Anderson during the BALCO investigation. Giambi has since admitted to his use of steroids and HGH during his career, and has publicly apologized.
While his career has spiraled downward since his admission, and presumed discontinuation of drug abuse, Giambi has remained a positive figure during the whole steroid era. Rather than being chastised by furious fans, like Bonds (and presumably Clemens in the near future), Giambi is praised for his honesty and forwardness.
Rafael Betancourt, a reliever for the Cleveland Indians, tested positive for steroids in 2005. In spite of his past drug abuse Betancourt, according to Baseball America, is viewed as the future closer for the Indians.
During the 2007 postseason, Betancourt was a staple in the Indians bullpen. He helped knock the Yankees out of the playoffs in the divisional series, pitching in two games, and allowing no runs in two innings while striking out three.
In their next matchup against the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox, Betancourt was vital in the bullpen for the Tribe. He appeared in five of the series’ seven games and was rewarded by Cleveland in 2008 with a two year contract extension.
How many Indians fans or media pundits do you think remember/discuss Betancourt as a steroid user?
It was recently revealed in the Mitchell Report that the Yankees' lefty, Andy Pettitte, was a past abuser of HGH. Upon hearing of his inclusion in the report Petitte, unlike Clemens, admitted to his usage and apologized.
When you compare Pettitte’s press conference addressing his alleged HGH use and Clemens’ press conference when he denied the report, there is a glaring disparity between the two testimonies.
Pettitte appears at peace with himself and ready to move on from the mistakes of his past.
“The truth will set you free,” he said. “I think I’m gonna be able to sleep a lot better at night once this all gets by.”
I hope you’re listening Roger. The truth will set you free.
While Clemens’ big league career appears over either way, Pettitte will be a fixture in the Yankees rotation this season.
If he has 7-9 wins by the all star break, you can be sure that Yankees fans will have forgiven him for his dishonest past.
In his press conference, Clemens appeared flustered, anxious, and extremely defensive. He seemed to have little confidence in what he was saying and answered questions as if they had been rehearsed.
Clemens should take notes on how his buddy, Andy Pettitte, has handled the same situation.
If he continues the course that he’s on now, the only place that "The Rocket" will launch is into the same place as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco. All figureheads of the entire steroid era in MLB.