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…. Let’s talk about

Steroids. Once more. OK, maybe more than just once.

I just finished reading two more columns about steroids, I was actually going to avoid writing about it today, but these guys are both terrific, and what they added to the conversation is too valuable to be left out.

First, we have Michael McCann, over at the Sports Law Blog, writing about Mike Greenwell’s suggestion that he should be awarded the 1988 MVP award and that it should be taken from admitted steroid user Jose Canseco. He lists some of the various other ballplayers who could make the same argument:

…. Greenwell’s not alone in this type of argument. What do Adrian Beltre, Albert Pujols, and (in theory) Sammy Sosa all have in common? From 2000-2004, each finished second to an admitted steroids user, Barry Bonds, for the National League MVP award (it happened to Pujols twice). Likewise, Mike Piazza was the runner up to admitted user Ken Caminiti for the 1996 National League MVP award, while Frank Thomas was the runner up to admitted user Jason Giambi for the 2000 American League MVP award.

First of all, prior to the 2003 season, steroid use was not against baseball’s rules. Any type of disqualification for talking about it now is absurd. Second, Bonds’ “admission” is nothing of the sort. In point of fact, Bonds denies any inference that he used steroids ever, under any circumstances, and more importantly, during the last two seasons, he has been tested by MLB and has apparently passed.

More to the point, baseball players have long been willing to use any and all means to improve themselves, legal and otherwise. The type of player who wouldn’t go to extremes to excel in baseball would more than likely be ostracized by his teammates. The fact that there exists a hysteria over the use of steroids does not exclude the use of them from the discussion.

Here’s the rub: If people are supposed to die from using steroids, where are the dead bodies?

Given that those who decided to use steroids found that, once they did use them, they didn’t die, or get sick, or fall apart; suggests that it was pretty easy for them to come to the conclusion, not unlike first-time pot smokers; that it was all a lie.

Greenwell knows this. That’s what makes his MVP clamor so ridiculous. He used amphetamines, without question. I’ll tell you something else. My favorite ball-player of all time, Don Mattingly, a contemporary of Greenwell, absolutely and without question used amphetamines. His teammates, Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, noted tough guy Don Baylor, future Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson, Willie Randolph, all of them, used amphetamines. Amphetamine use in baseball is rampant, and has been for decades. Stop acting like using steroids is such a big deal. It is but one step up the ladder of doing anything you possibly can to do your job in the cutthroat world of professional baseball.

Widespread use of preformance enhancers has been documented in virtually all sports, for as long as competition has existed. Again, a professional baseball player of the fifties would have drank the blood of a rhino if someone told him he would get three hits that day if he did.

And, as David Pinto points out in this post, using steroids isn’t technically illegal.

…. Use of controlled substances is not a federal crime. The Department of Justice has no jurisdiction over it. Federal law enforcement has jurisdiction over possession and trafficking but not use. In fact, check the state laws on illegal drugs and I think you’ll find that most — if not all — do not criminalize use. In the states, possession for personal use is such a low level misdemeanor that prosecution of an even smaller offense — use — wouldn’t be worth the resources (and it might meet with very stiff public resistance).

This information was sent to David by a trial attorney with extensive experience in federal and state courts. Given that using steroids wasn’t illegal, and wasn’t prohibited by baseball, (not unlike the use of amphetamines), than perhaps its time to stop the hand-wringing and woe unto baseball, and all of the “scourge” of our time talk, and let it go.

It’s against the rules now, and judging by the media treatment Jason Giambi is already experiencing, there can be no doubt that no one in their right mind will use steroids again. The fact that steroid use can probably extend one’s career, enhance a player’s endurance and improve his ability to excel at the day to day grind we call baseball, is of no consequence, and is obviously something that this country is not ready to accept. So, drop it.

Jose Canseco will disappear if everyone lets him. Stop interviewing him. Stop asking him what he thinks. Stop writing about him. Let it go. I’ll say it again; it’s laughable to hear these sportswriters talk now about how horrible it is that guys did steroids all this time. Not one of them was willing to take a stand when it mattered, and expose the problem when it was happening right in front of them. Now that it’s out in the open, (primarily because the SF Chronicle’s guys were willing to risk their careers to publish Grand Jury testimony), every sportswriter in the country has to make sure we know how much they think it’s wrong.

Hey guys, if you think it’s that bad, start writing about how bad amphetamines are. Start writing about how bad painkillers are. Start writing about how clubs put their players long-term health at risk all the time for the team. Do some investigating and some reporting. Stop rehashing a dead subject.


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All commentary is the opinion of John J Perricone unless otherwise noted.
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