It’s not surprising to anyone that more and more pharmacologically enhanced baseball players are being outed, not just by the media but also by the criminal justice systems of the United States. In the news recently there have been stories about numerous players taking illegal substances - Rick Ankiel was reported to have received a 12-month supply of HGH in 2004 from a Florida pharmacy that was part of a national illegal prescription drug-distribution operation. Jay Gibbons was also linked to a Florida pharmacy that distributed prescription performance-enhancing drugs, and Troy Glaus allegedly received multiple shipments of performance-enhancing steroids through a purportedly illegal internet distribution network.
Once again we find ourselves standing on the tip of the iceberg wondering just what else lies below the surface of this no longer placid sea.
Now according to Yahoo!, and as I mentioned several months ago, the justice system is beginning to have problems with MLB and their integrity in dealing with the whole issue of illegal performance enhancing drugs. The word everyone seems afraid to say is conspiracy. Maybe that’s because no one wants the label as a conspiracy theorist, but when the state attorney in NY feels baseball’s authorities can’t be trusted to aid in a criminal prosecution, that's much the same as saying that they feel MLB officials are more obstructionist than helpful.
And that my friends is an indication that someone thinks there is a conspiracy - maybe even a criminal one.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone, anywhere who cares about the integrity of the sport who thinks baseball has done a good job rooting out steroids, amphetamines or any performance enhancing drugs. MLB has done a poor job detecting them and punishing those who have admitted to using them. They have certainly even done a poor job in relation to trying to maintain the integrity of the game.
It’s a far cry from the days of Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis who expelled all of the Black Sox, not only those that actively conspired to throw a baseball game, but even those that merely knew about it and didn’t step forward to protect the integrity of the game.
There are plenty of fans who don’t care about steroids, defending players who use them because “the game didn’t ban them before 2004,” (A rather gross misconception, baseball has had a rule on the books about steroids since the 1980s but didn’t begin testing until 2003 and imposing penalties before 2004), because ”they are available to everyone,” because they believe the great majority of athletes use them, or simply because the long ball and the power pitcher make the game that much more exciting.
And from a moral standpoint that’s wrong on so many levels. Plenty of players have chosen not to cheat, or to destroy their bodies with drugs which might pump their numbers, but which will cause health issues later. Is it fair to them to play with only their raw abilities against enhanced and sometimes Frankenstein-like drug created talent? The answer has to be no - the playing field in all sports is supposed to be fair.
The fact remains that athletes are heroes to kids around the world, not only in baseball, but in other sports running the gamut from skateboarding to football. When we turn a blind eye to their cheating and teach children that we’re ok with chemically enhanced players the lesson they learn is that steroids, HGH, greenies and other supplements, which are illegal to sell but make you a better player, are a good thing. It also tells kids that the players aren’t just ballplayers but “supermen” who they can never hope to match without cheating too. That’s the message that celebrating those athletes who play under the shadow of steroids sends.
Until recently baseball has been an enabler for the steroid crowd, even without the assistance of the Players Union. Their half-hearted probe into the use of performance enhancing drugs has been stymied not just by the Union but by the league itself. The fans have noticed it, the media has noticed it, and now at least one state attorney is noticing it too.
And that can’t be good for baseball as a business, but it might be great for the fans.
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