Monday, January 11, 2010

Is the "Steroids Era" really over?

Mark McGwire has admitted the obvious - he was juicing when he broke Roger Maris home run record. At this point most of the media ought to be apologizing for questioning Jose Canseco's honesty and declaring him a hero for breaking the story wide open. Of course they won't. Not any more than Republicans  are going to honor Deep Throat for ratting out Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal.

But there is a second part to McGwire's statement that really needs to be challenged. He says, "Baseball is really different now -- it's been cleaned up. The Commissioner and the Players Association implemented testing and they cracked down, and I'm glad they did."  That, of course, is baseball's media-narrative of the moment, not Jose Canseco's heroism. But it is no more true than the narrative that Canseco was a dishonorable liar.

The fact is there are no tests of Human Growth Hormone. And, while HGH is not a steroid, there is a lot of evidence it is extremely effective as a performance enhancing substance. The basic underlying motives for using performance enhancing drugs remain. Those boil down to a huge gap between what a major league player makes and what a minor league player takes home. And a huge gap between a major league star and a journeyman.  Given those gaps, it is likely that some players are going to take whatever risks are necessary to jump across.

I don't really have a solution, but we shouldn't kid ourselves that the era drug abuse is finished. Baseball and the media have just stuck their heads firmly back in the sand.

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