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Say it Ain’t So(sa) 06/17/2009

Posted by sportretort in mlb, Sports, Uncategorized.
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Like the Ghost of Christmas Past, the ‘anonymous’ steroid test of 2003 keeps revisiting horror on Major League Baseball.

In 2003 , MLB, in response to public outcry about the rampant use of steroids suspected in its game, decided to test players to determine the percentage of steroid users to decide if a drug screening program was necessary.  Players

Turns out that 2003 was a bad year for Sosa, starting with the cork bat affair

Turns out that 2003 was a bad year for Sosa, starting with the cork bat affair

 who participated in the test did so under the assurance that their participation would remain anonymous, and that the results would remain private.  104 players tested positive for what we now term PEDs or performance enhancing drugs.  This result spurred MLB and the Players Association (MLBPA) to reach a collective bargaining agreement that set into motion the current testing system.  In the last 3 years, spanning thousands, if not tens of thousands of tests, fully 8 positive results have come back to MLB.  Only one so far this year.  A cynic would say that that result is because we can not or do not test for the current in vogue PEDs.  An optimist would say the program is working perfectly.  The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.  With so few positives, why is baseball constantly in the news for PEDs?  The answer to that is simple.  And complicated.

First, the one positive test this season resulted in a 50 game suspension to the LA Dodgers Manny Ramirez, one of the biggest stars in the game today.  That is the simple part.  The more complicated part is that the first name of the 104 positive results from ’03 found its way into the public earlier this season.  New York Yankees superstar Alex Rodriguez was revealed to have tested positive while playing with the Texas Rangers back then.  After denials, A Rod came clean and admitted to the usage.  He claims to have been clean since he joined the Yankees, and has not had a positive result since formal testing began.  And yesterday, name number two of the 104 came to light. Chicago’s  Sammy Sosa was revealed to have tested positave while playing for the Cubs in ’03.   In the past, Sosa has denied any PED usage.  So far, no comment has been issued about the newest report.  Assuming it is true, 2003 was a bad year for Sosa all around because he was suspended for using a corked bat after his bat shattered during a game on June 3rd.  Sosa’s excuse about the bat was that he used corked bats during batting practice to put on a show for the fans, and that somehow one of these bats made it into his game bats.  True or not, many people did not buy that excuse back then, and are even more suspicious of it now.  Sosa is the only player to hit 60 or more home runs in 3 different season.  That, coupled with the dramatic changes in his physical appearance would lead most observers to find a revelation that he used PEDs less than a shock.  The question is, is it news if the test results are 6 years old, and should we care?  The continued existence of these tests from ’03 is what makes this such a complected situation for MLB and the MLBPA.  Here’s why.

If you are given  drug test at your place of employment and it is to remain anonymous, you have every right to expect the results to be shielded from public eyes.  But we know that 104 players tested positive.  And we know that someone

The 1998 All Star game was in Denver

The 1998 All Star game was in Denver

has that list.  Many people are calling for the list to now be made public.  Is it fair to A Rod and Sosa to have had their results made public?  No.  Would it be fair to the other 102 on the list to make their names public?  No.  But if the names keep coming out sporadically, MLB faces a death of a thousand paper cuts.  Obviously not every name on that list is a star, and so not every name would demand the attention that has been directed at A Rod and Sosa.  But for every star name, baseball is dragged through the mud.  The further argument to releasing the names is that we would know who was dirty and who was clean, but that also is incorrect because not every player was tested.  The answer is to stop the leaks.  But that is probably unrealistic.  So should baseball release the list and take the hit all at once?  See, tough questions with no easy answer.

Back to Sosa.  I know no one who is shocked to learn that he used PEDs.  And, honestly, I know very few people who care.  He was part of the 1998 home run chase that brought fans back to baseball.  Now the two principals involved in that chase, Sosa and St Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire have booth been implicated in usage of PEDs.  My point is that most people knew it at the time.  Baseball had to know, and cashed in on it.  And cashed in on Barry Bonds.  And cashed in on Rodger Clemens.  The All Star game that July was played at Coors Field in Denver. All these players were there.   As my friends and I sat through the Home Run Derby,  the discussion for a time turned to steroids (we did not have the term PED at the time).  Were these guys juicing?  Certainly not all, but just as certainly some where.  We did not know who, but we had suspicions.  It did not detract from the enjoyment of the festivities.   It did not detract from that magical summer that brought fans back to baseball.  We knew it then.  The fact that we know it now with some certainty should not detract from baseball, because now baseball is doing something to try to prevent usage.  Lets look forward, not backward with recrimination.  PEDS have been a widespread problem in all of sports.  Baseball is not unique.  But Baseball must find a way to come to terms with its past, or it will bleed to death from the thousand cuts of paper.  Or needle pokes.

1998 All Star Game Ticket

1998 All Star Game Ticket

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