|Not News and Not a Floodgate|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 14, 2010
Most of them lied to our faces about it, a few tried to brush the subject aside, some attempted to apologize for some vague, nebulous thing that they wouldn't put into words, and a few basically flaunted it after the fact.¬† Even a sham like the Mitchell Report, which had no authority, no backing, and no legal rights turned up evidence that baseball wasn't a clean sport from at least the mid 90s on.
But hey, it probably wasn't all that clean in the 50s or 60s either, and you could even make an argument that neither Roger Maris or Mickey Mantle can be proven "clean" during their home run chase back in 1961.¬† After all steroids existed, and while not a lot was known about them, they were thought to be rather miraculous little pills. ¬†Something guys with bad knees, bad temperaments, or hair that was falling out might have taken.
But if players of that bygone era used steroids, they did so in an era where things like weight training and conditioning were dirty words to players and owners alike.¬† More important was that there was little or no knowledge about how steroids, which were not at the time a controlled substance, could give you an athletic edge.
That innocence ended sometime in the late 70s, and between the scientific knowledge that inadvertently leaked into locker rooms in every major sport, and the door that opened with free agency, the cat was out of the bag.¬† It was a cat, which grew and grew until it produced NFL linebacker monstrosities, and power hitters who could pretty much hit the ball 400 feet with a single hand.
McGwire and the home run chase of 1998 (and all the subsequent home run chases) were all the byproduct of players chasing history and dollars with a lot of help from an underground pipeline of performance enhancing drugs, while the owners and commissioner turned a blind eye, and even abetted the cheating going on.
It was the fans, the sportswriters and a few brave athletes who wouldn't abide the tainting of the game.¬† They exposed the cheating, they exposed baseball's dark side, and they brought it out into the open.¬† Despite players who stonewalled, lied, and misdirected, the truth came out - even if not each and every name did.
And McGwire was among the tainted.¬† We may not have been able to prove it, but we knew it.¬† And except for perhaps a handful of players and former players like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens who seems to be living in their own delusional little worlds, most of the big name cheaters know that we already have them tarred with that same brush.¬† They can deny it until they are blue in the face because no one is listening.
As to McGwire, I do believe he has genuine regret for what he did.¬† It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, especially since use of PEDs was rampant in the game during the era and using them changed his career from non-descript and made him into a superstar.¬† He was young and stupid enough not to realize the lasting health consequences or the effect his actions would have on the integrity of the game as a whole.
In retrospect I'm sure that all seems quite clear to him now and he allegedly has made an effort to steer kids down a different path than the one he had taken when it came to PEDs.¬† That's noble and it shows that Mark has indeed learned a lot from his mistakes.
That really is the key to yesterday's public apology for steroid use.¬† Mark didn't make the apology for our sake, or to expose any great truth that was hidden from us.¬† He apologized for himself, for the mistakes he made, and to clear his own conscience.
This wasn't news.¬† It wasn't even really a story. It won't open the floodgates and push those in denial to confessing their acts.¬† It was an act of bravery and repentance from one man and something that was a product of a lesson learned the hard way.