Mr. Chairman: Performance-Enhancing Drugs Are Here To Stay

Justin ZuckerCorrespondent IMarch 24, 2009

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 01:  House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) questions former top Pentagon officials during a hearing about the combat fratricide of NFL star and US Army Ranger Pat Tillman on Capitol Hill August 1, 2007 in Washington, DC. The hearing was titled 'The Tillman Fratricide: What the Leadership of the Defense Department Knew.' Tillman's family was originally told that he was killed by the enemy during combat in Afghanistan. It was later revealed that he was killed in a 'friendly-fire' accident by his fellow Rangers.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Society loves a good train wreck.  We aren’t happy unless someone, anyone, is miserable.  I guess that the old saying, "misery loves company," is completely accurate.  It appears that in the world of sports, we all need heroes and we all need the obligatory whipping boy.


I have been sitting back and watching the A-Rod furor play itself out for everyone to see.  I am going to lay out a slightly different, if not controversial viewpoint.  Before I begin let’s get one thing straight.  I don’t particularly care for Alex Rodriguez.  I never did.  I have marveled at his play, but never once did I actually enjoy watching him.


I am a Yankees fan.  But I nearly vomited in my mouth when the Yankees re-signed him.  I was hopeful that he was gone for good.  I simply hate distractions.  I like the sport, period.  I don’t like shenanigans or the “look at me” attitude.


But to sit back and admonish Alex Rodriguez for all that is wrong in baseball is absolutely absurd!  The performance enhancing drug problem dates back over 20 years in baseball. 


Let me put this in perspective.  I entered High School in 1985.  I was told by our coach, who was quite well respected in the baseball community, that I should not lift weights.  Lifting weights is not good for baseball players.


By 1988, “The Bash Brothers” entered the scene.  You remember them, Dave Henderson, Mark McGwire, and Jose Canseco.  They were mean, they were nasty, and they could hit the ball a mile.  I wore an A’s hat to practice one day.  The quote from the coach was, “So now you like Jose Can-Steroid, huh?”  What an eye opener.


In 1994 Major League Baseball came to a screeching halt due to a work stoppage.  No World Series!  Dire times indeed.  When they returned, attendance was way down.  But steroid usage was way up. 


Cal Ripken was chasing his record for consecutive games played. 


In 1998, McGwire and Sammy Sosa were racing towards breaking the single season home run record.  Power hitters were popping up all over the place.  Home runs were flying!  Attendance was up again.  Everyone loved baseball.  Who remembers the commercial, “Chicks dig the long ball”?  MLB was thriving!  It was the “juiced ball” era. 


It should have been called the juiced player era.


Indulge me for a second.  Brady Anderson played for 16 years.  He hit 210 career home runs.  50 of those were in 1996. 


Sammy Sosa hit more than 40 home runs once before the age of 30.  After age 30, he hit 401 of his 609 career home runs.  That is 66 percent of his home runs AFTER the age of 30.


And Barry Bonds?  If there was ever a fraud it is him.


I am leaving a bunch of names out of this article, simply because you already know the names.  But my point is this, how did anyone not see this?  Did everyone have their heads in the sand?


Did the sportswriters really not know what was going on?  How about the owners, the players, the “commissioner”?  Nobody knew what was happening?


Bologna!  They knew.  These players, and the game of baseball, are getting exactly what they deserve.  The players would never rat each other out.  There is a “brotherhood” and I get it. 


It doesn’t behoove the owners to rat out their own players.  They want to win; at least most organizations want to win.


And Major League Baseball needed the power numbers.  It brought back the interest, and the fans.  Performance enhancing drugs were good for business baby.


 Then the negative publicity started and Bud Selig, the “commissioner”, caved.  He is appalled.  Alex Rodriguez shamed the game?  Seriously?  Shamed the game?  Bud Selig is as much to blame but he isn’t man enough to admit it. 


Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire are all gone from the game.  Gary Sheffield and Jason Giambi have become largely irrelevant.  We need a whipping boy. 


Somehow, the tests results that were supposed to be confidential were leaked.  My friends, I give you A-Rod.  The new poster child for all that is wrong with the sport that is supposed to be good and pure.


Yet there is still no real testing for HGH.  Players are failing the “idiot test” and nobody cares about them.  J.C. Romero, anyone?  Right, he didn’t know.  Andy Pettitte only used them to get healthy.  And Roger Clemens only used it to get strong. 


Players in the NFL regularly test positive.  Shawn Merriman.  Rodney Harrison.  Nobody cares.  But for some reason, we are all appalled that baseball players actually used performance enhancing drugs.


PED’s have become as much of a part of the game as the double play.  We had better get used to it.  It’s human nature to look for an edge.  No matter what you do, most people will look for an edge.  Until there is a fool proof way to test for these drugs, they will permeate the game.


That begs the question, should we really care if players are using these drugs?  Are professional sports chasing their tails?  They can’t really be caught.  It can’t really be stopped.  At least not from what I can see.


And as for the role model argument, I don’t even want to listen to that anymore.  Parents need to guide their children.  These guys play a game.  They are not role models.  If your kids want to look up to them, guide them in the proper way.  Let them try to play like they do, but teach them the right way to do things.  Teach them how to lead a good life.  Be their role model.  Earn it.


The sportswriters need to come to grips with the fact that we will never know the full truth.   You can’t ignore the players implicated and leave them out of the Hall of Fame.  There is no way to determine who is guilty and who is innocent.  Unless you want to remove ALL of the players who played in the era from the ballot then just stop it.  You don’t know.  Period.   


And the players need to stop crying that they didn’t take them and are being unfairly implicated.  If they really cared that much they would have put a stop to it long before it got to this point.  Peer pressure is the best way to stop these things. 


Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti appear to be the only players to have told the truth.  I believe they estimated that about 80 percent used.  Unfortunately everyone scoffs at Jose, for obvious reasons.  And Ken Caminiti is dead.  It’s a shame.


Before I quit this rant, let’s all ask ourselves one question.  If you could take something, to help ensure that you kept your job, and excelled at your job, would you take it?  Think about it for a minute.  In today’s economy, would you do it? 


Perhaps we all need to “take off our white wigs and stop judging everyone”?  It’s just a thought.  If you have a moment, check out this documentary.  It might change your viewpoint.


I have sworn to myself that this article is the last time I discuss the topic.  I hope I can stick to it.


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