Archive for March, 2004
So, I finally start to get some serious feedback and other related inter-site dialogues going; and I’m traveling, so I can’t even get in….
Please keep going, calling me an idiot, everything….
I’ll be back in a day or so, and I’ll address all the emails, comments, posts and all that.
Thanks for stopping by, in the meantime,
I’m gonna use Mike Lupica’s column today to make a point. To get us started, here’s Mike, who apparently has a soapbox surgically attached to the bottom of his feet now, going after Gene Orza.
In the real world, not Orza’s increasingly isolated world, there are real medical experts from coast to coast, ones with no agenda, who will tell you in chapter and verse why steroids given to healthy people are such a danger.
If steroids aren’t bad, why are his players getting tested for them?
Again, Lupica gets it all wrong. Medical experts with no agenda? Please.
“We know steroids can be used with a reasonable measure of safety,” says Charles Yesalis, a Penn State epidemiologist, steroid researcher for more than 25 years, and author of the 1998 book The Steroids Game. “We know this because they’re used in medicine all the time, just not to enhance body image or improve athletic performance.” Yesalis notes that steroids were first used for medical purposes in the 1930s, some three decades before the current exacting standards of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were in place. Source: Dayn Perry
Oh, by the way, Dr. Yesalis is a member of the National Institute on Drug Awareness(NIDA), whose website address is www.steroidabuse.com; you think he knows more about it than Lupica does? You think he’s got an agenda?
So, here’s what Lupica (and everyone like-minded) want you to believe:
Steroids are bad for you. If they weren’t bad, they wouldn’t be illegal.
Let’s start with the question of whether they are bad for you. I just don’t see how you could come to that conclusion. The simple truth is that there have been essentially no studies done that have concluded that steroid use will cause anything. How can I say this? Because there have been essentially no studies done at all. Look it up. Go to the NIDA and try to find the huge library of studies and reports and data. It’s not there. If it’s not there, then where is it? I don’t know, and neither does Lupica.
If you look really hard (as I’ve been doing these last couple of months), what you’ll find are a bunch of anecdotes and personal tales of woe; and there aren’t many of them at that. And even if you wanted to read all about these stories, you’ll find there have been very few attempts to collect and analyze them; you’ll find a couple here and there, but in large part, they’re not to be found either. In point of fact, the evidence you keep hearing about isn’t evidence at all. It’s propaganda. It’s a fiftieth reference to a story some guy told some other guy in some gym twenty years ago. All the doctors and experts Lupica’s talking about? Where are they? I could dig up a half dozen quotes from doctors in about ten minutes that say pretty much what Dr. Yesalis says. The actual side effects of steroid use don’t seem to be any worse than the list of side effects you hear associated with Viagra, or Claritin or any of the hundreds of drugs you hear advertised on TV while you’re watching baseball.
So, if steroids aren’t bad, why are they illegal? Well, why is marijuana illegal? Why are some drugs illegal while others aren’t? The answer lies somewhere between politics and capitalism; somewhere between fact and fiction. We know that steroids work, that’s for sure. If you use them to build strength and muscle mass, you will get results. Should they be regulated, or controlled in some way? That depends on whether you believe the government is any smarter than you are. I, for one, agree with Gene Orza, that the government (and the media) should stay the hell out of my private life. As a citizen of the United States, I seem to recall that I have the right to that privacy. But to say that because they are illegal, they must be bad… well, the two things aren’t neccessarily related. There are lot’s of things that are regulated that aren’t bad for you, and there are lots of things that aren’t that are. It’s a separate issue.
The real question that matters is; should kids be able to get their hands on them? Of course not. Even though there is limited data on the subject of steroid use; there’s plenty of information available on the developing human body. We know enough about that to know that it’s not something to mess around with.
We should protect our children. Of course children shouldn’t be able to get their hands on steroids. For that matter, children shouldn’t smoke (but they do), children shouldn’t drink (but they do), children shouldn’t get high (but they do), children shouldn’t have sex (but they do). Don’t let me give you the impression that I think it’s wrong to try and prevent teenagers from doing whatever they want. Our youth need direction, they need guidance. They need to be prevented from making choices that can harm them, because they are children. Fine.
But the bottom line is this: steroids work, and they can be used safely. They are illegal to possess and/or distribute, so using them is a crime, but the hysteria surrounding their use is based on politically motivated propaganda; and as such, is quite frankly, insulting to my intelligence. Don’t believe the hype, as they say.
Dave Anderson has a sanctimonious “Memo to MLBPA” column in today’s NY Times.
When the president of the United States says “get rid” of steroids, as George W. Bush did in his State of the Union address in January, it’s no longer a privacy issue. When the attorney general, John Ashcroft, says steroids are “bad for sports, bad for players and bad for young people who hold athletes up as role models,” it’s no longer a privacy issue.
And when the White House has requested a meeting of Olympic leaders and the four major professional sports — baseball, football, basketball and hockey — steroid use is no longer a privacy issue.
Memo to Dave Anderson: When the White House jumps on the bandwagon with any issue, it’s an election year, not a scandal.
And here you can read about how worried Jason Giambi is about playing the season without his personal trainer.
Giambi said he did not blame the Yankees for the restrictions, calling the team the middle man for Major League Baseball. But he still seemed bothered that the Yankees would revoke the privileges he said Alejo was promised when Giambi signed in December 2001.
“That guy’s been around; he’s kept me on the field,” Giambi said. “Knock on wood, I’ve never been on the disabled list. That’s very important to me, especially with the type of money that I make. If I’m on the field, that’s the most important thing when you have a contract like that. You’re expected to do more than the average player.”
Keep that in mind when Giambi hits the DL, and writers like Anderson start questioning his ability to play in pain, or his work ethic, or his heart. Keep that in mind when Seligula runs around telling us about how the steroids issue is about a players health, and then denies them access to the very means of maintaining it. Players who, by the way, are the foundation of the game he is so willing to trash to get his way. Players who put their asses on the line to fill the stands while he stands there counting his money and tells us they are destroying it.
I’d like to hear Bonds or Giambi telling off Selig in the words of the immortal Colonel Nathan Jessup: “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very (financial) freedom I provide, then question the manner in which I provide it.”
The lawyers for the defendants in the BALCO case are unhappy with the way their case is being handled in virtually every way.
Lawyers for Victor Conte Jr. and James J. Valente, executives of the Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative, the company at the heart of a steroid distribution investigation, called Thursday for a federal investigation into news leaks about the case.
The lawyers said that much of the leaked information about their clients was false. Their clients and some top athletes “are being smeared,” said Troy Ellerman, the lawyer for Valente, Balco’s vice president.
Perhaps the most important detail in the story is a mention that the grand jury has withdrawn their request for the results of baseball’s steroid survey test, and is planning to seek the results of only the players who were called to testify. This is what happens in a witch hunt. First, the players were granted immunity in exchange for their testimony, and now the grand jury is going after them. Hmmm… I wonder where they got the idea to do that?
David Pinto is paying attention to a press conference held by Victor Conte’s attorney. The gist of the press conference seems to be that the defendants don’t want to be held responsible for yesterday’s unnamed sources accusing Bonds, Giambi, et al.
Here’s a question: how come the defendants are working so hard to clear the names of these baseball players? Wouldn’t you think it’d be the other way around? Wouldn’t you expect these guys to try and deflect attention away from thmselves and onto the ballplayers, especially if they had the goods on them?
I got an email from a reader, and he put it this way (I’m altering his comments slightly):
When all (of these accusations and innuendo) are taken together, the cumulative effect is to allow reporters to accuse a player of steroid use, absent any evidence other than weight gain and improved play, and then have any subsequent data support the claim, no matter what it is. Put another way, the reporters’ logic allows no means for an athlete to demonstrate their innocence.
People laugh at Dusty Baker for calling this a witch hunt, but he’s not being nearly as unreasonable as people think. It has many of the same ingredients. Players are accused, on the basis of circumstantial evidence, of steroid use. Any subsequent findings, regardless of what they are, are quickly argued into being further evidence of steroid use. People who question the claims are told that they are naive.
He expanded further, but you get the point. Back when the Caminiti article came out, I wrote an email to Verducci chastising him for his baseless, blanket accusations. I asked him who on the Yankees he could prove was using steroids; Jeter, Williams, Posada, Rivera, Pettitte…. I went through the whole roster on the Yanks and the Giants. You know what his answer was? All of them. That’s all he wrote; all of them. You see the thought process behind this witch hunt?
In a trial, you’re not allowed to get away with that kind of bullshit, that’s why you see people get acquitted when the media makes it seem like there’s no doubt. Because there’s always doubt, always. If you weren’t there, you have no idea what happened. That’s why there’s a code of ethics for journalists, something writers like Verducci have obviously discarded.
There’s a new writer(s) in town, a St. Louis Cardinal site in need of your attention, the Cardinal Nation. Go, now.
Got some emails from some diligent readers who have dug up a couple of eye-opening articles related to our discussion. First up, Brad Dowdy, who runs the Braves Beat, send me a Muscle & Fitness profile of Bonds and Anderson he thinks was published way back in 2001 (the piece seems to be written in 2003, however). Nonetheless, it’s a good read, and it appears to be the source for many of the Bonds/Anderson quotes we’ve been reading in the news lately.
Also in the news, the San Jose Mercury has a measured take on the latest allegations and unnamed sources that have sent this scandal down the toilet. Surpisingly measured.
IRS special agent Jeff Novitzky said last May that he discovered 11 used syringes and 27 vials of Nutropin, a prescription human growth hormone that dates to 1994. HGH allegedly is a popular muscle-building agent used by athletes and banned by the International Olympic Committee.
While it seems the vials were for athletes, documents obtained by the Mercury News show Balco had a contract to analyze pre-clinical samples of Nutropin for biotech giant Genentech. Balco is a trace-mineral testing company.
Anyone remember reading about that little detail? I don’t. Because it was ignored, un-reported. It didn’t jibe with what the newspapers were selling, so they left it out.
In the NY Times, I found this article by Donald G. McNeil Jr., in which a couple of ex-steroid users discuss the “addictive” side effects of the drugs. In the story, one user tells of how he was able to put 50 lbs. of muscle on in 20 weeks using steroids; and then how he lost it again even faster once he stopped. Am I the only one who finds such claims beyond fantastic? He went from 150 lbs. to 200 lbs. and back again in a what appeasr to have been less than a year. Is there any doubt that McNeil didn’t take the time to speak to a doctor or a physical therapist or a trainer or ANYONE to verify whether it is physically possible to gain and lose 50 lbs. of muscle in such a short period of time?
I am so put off by these types of articles, which seem to be a part of a mass propaganda effort to disinform and confuse; I mean, how does the same mis-information come out of so many disparate sources? Look, here’s Mike Lupica again, writing another “steroids is a crime” story, sounding like any other knucklehead instead of one of the great sportswriters of all time.
This all started innocently enough six years ago, when an Associated Press sportswriter named Steve Wilstein noticed a bottle of androstenedione in Mark McGwire’s locker in the visitors’ clubhouse at Shea Stadium. Androstenedione is a testosterone-producing drug that was already banned in the Olympics and the NFL by then. Wilstein wrote this all up big. If you are looking for the day when this story started, maybe that is it. A good reporter asking a question.
I just don’t see how you go from the McGwire andro story to a never ending stream of innuendo and guilt by association, how you get here from there. How you decide to go after Bonds with little more than circumstantial association. You telling me there’s no way Bonds didn’t do steroids? No way?!?! Please.
Update: For an idea what a real story on the subject looks like, check out Heels, Sox and Steelers’ take. Using actual statistics and analysis, Ryan Wilson looks at whether possible steroid use allowed Randy Velarde to stay in the majors longer than his talent alone would have.
I watched his performance closely over the next 15 years, as he won six NL MVPs — six! — and p.o.’ed a lot of people in the process.
Now I’m supposed to think he swallowed something that did that for him? Give me a break. This frenzy, this ‘Roid Outrage — and that would include investigations and any political currency shrewdly gained by the current crop of politicans — seems to me to be rather curiously timed to Barry Bonds being on the cusp of breaking the home-run records of the most iconic figure(s) in all of American baseball history. Really, though, wouldn’t you agree, it’s mostly all about him passing Babe Ruth, the mighty Babe, and then, oh-by-the-way, Hank Aaron? Isn’t it about Barry Bonds breaking those records by “cheating”? Isn’t it about fair play, and being “clean,” and the “purity” of the game? Isn’t it about whether Bonds’ records are now “tainted”? Isn’t it?
Oh, and go see this ESPN2 Then & Now feature, which takes a peek at some people who have changed as they’ve grown up before our eyes, and see if you can tell who’s doing what, if anything?
I am proud that so many bloggers are open minded and fair in the way they are addressing the steroids issue, while so many of the guys who do this for a living are not.
Over at Redbird Nation, you can hear a well-put train of thought on Bonds’ power surge.
It was in that article I found this outstanding Patrick Cox article. He addresses so many of the key aspects of the discussion that I’ll never be able to decide which is the best, but here’s goes:
Tracy Olrich, of Central Michigan University’s Department of Physical Education and Sport, says the emerging consensus is that benefits of therapeutic steroid use vastly outweigh the risks, and points out that, for decades, according to conservative estimates, over a million people at any one time have taken illegal steroids. Only eleven deaths, and most of them only indirectly caused by steroids, he says, have been linked to their use. “Compare that,” Olrich prompts, “to smoking, liposuction or bicycle riding.”
Liposuction’s shockingly high death rate is estimated to be between 30 and 1000 per million patients. An equally useful comparison would be to the sporting activities steroids supposedly imperil; amateur football, for example. According to the University of North Carolina-based National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injuries, out of the approximately 1.5 million American football players in junior high, high-school and college. Fifteen died in 2002 — down from 23 in 2001.
Don’t worry if you lose your place, I am adding the piece to the Steroids & Baseball links box. So it’ll always be there if you need it.
…. Fooling around with pharmaceuticals is dangerous business. If these things are really harmless, let’s put them through the proper channels, get them tested and approved by the FDA, prescribed by doctors, then you can tell me that they are perfectly inocuous, similar to a protein shake.
As pointed out above, Steve is wrong here. There is little evidence that proves any of these claims about the dangers of steroids, and as for the FDA, please. The FDA approves drugs that have harmful side effects as fast as lightning, provided they are manufactured by a company that has well-paid lobbyists.
Our friend Josh, over at The Giant Thrill, has a lot to say on the subject. If you don’t believe me, go see for yourself.
Bob Raissman of the NY Daily News hits the nail on the head in this column. He takes Seligula to task for suggesting that he wants MLB to run an audit on the Yankees YES network, to make sure the numbers add up.
If Selig wants to play a numbers game with Steinbrenner, he must also send his accountants to Boston to audit NESN, the regional sports network the Red Sox own. Is NESN’s value being accurately accounted for by Red Sox brass?
Then the commish can send his green eyeshade boys to Chicago to check out the ledger sheets of the Cubs and their owner, the Tribune Co. Is Tribune paying the Cubs fair market value for radio and TV rights?
Next, a trip to Atlanta, where MLB’s Numbers Police could peruse the books of the Braves and Turner Broadcasting. Through all these years of success, was the network, which owns the team, paying the Braves a fair market rights fee?
So now I guess I’m supposed to eat crow, as the latest BALCO story quotes the always reliable unnamed source as knowing that Bonds and Giambi, among others; were given illegal steroids and HGH.
Pardon me, I’m not hungry.
The story, written by SF Chronicle staff writers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams represents the next step in the crusade, and don’t for one second forget that’s exactly what this is; a holy crusade, a witch hunt. Here’s a taste:
…. The information about Bonds provided to The Chronicle was corroborated by a source familiar with Anderson. The source told The Chronicle that the weight trainer had obtained steroids and human growth hormone for Bonds dating back to the 2001 season. That was the year the Giants outfielder broke baseball’s storied single-season record for home runs — hitting 73.
“We continue to adamantly deny that Barry was provided, furnished or supplied any of those substances at any time by Greg Anderson,” Michael Rains, an attorney for Bonds, said Monday. He also questioned the credibility of the source familiar with the trainer.
Other attorneys interviewed Monday answered in the same vein.
So the attorney’s for the defendants (who would seem to have the most to gain for naming names) continue to strenuously deny that these stars were involved; while unnamed sources have decided to come forth with these allegations six months after the fact. Why would that be? Who stands to gain from the timing of this blockbuster news story?