If only steroids were around 100 years ago, then most record books would have been tainted from the start. Baseball would still be America’s (real) pastime and Babe Ruth would probably still have died from cancer… but with a bigger hat size.
Since we can’t turn back the clock, and because making steroids mandatory in the majors is tough to support, some things must change.
The blight of steroid scandals is spreading through professional sports.
Personally, I’m sick to death of ‘em.
When it was leaked last week that Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez – baseball’s highest-paid player – tested positive for steroids in 2003 while playing for the Texas Rangers, I was so shocked I violently raised an eyebrow and even hesitated a second before changing the channel.**
While people are calling this the steroid era, I think the long-term name should be the asterisk era, referring to the asterisks that should appear next to players’ names in the record book if they are found to have used performance enhancers.
The idea is not new.
In 1961, baseball’s commissioner, Ford Frick, proposed putting an asterisk next to Roger Maris’ name because he had a longer season than Ruth to break the home run record.***
Now there’s a chorus of sports pundits calling for the installation of an asterisk system in the record book.
Of course the obvious argument for A-Rod is that the substance he took wasn’t banned at the time. That argument holds water like a colander. New types of performance enhancers are constantly being created in labs and we can’t just allow them until they are officially deemed illegal.
If A-SOB thought he was in the right, why did he originally deny using the stuff? Why’d he stop using it?
The other debate flowing from the story is whether the names of the other cheaters found in the 2003 test should remain confidential.
Yes, players were told that the results would be kept secret, but A-Rod’s was leaked and more will be in the future. They must give all, or none; sources can’t be allowed to pick and choose which to release.
The league should just get the names out quickly – like taking off a Band-Aid – and start fresh, instead of having players disgraced one at a time. And no further test should ever be confidential.
As for the asterisk idea, I say we take it even further.
If there’s a reason why a player should have two asterisks, then give them two – or three.
Like with the case of Sammy Sosa, a rare double cheater. He used banned substances, but we also know he played with a corked bat Ã‰ he broke one in June 2003 and a flow of little balls spilled across the infield.****
Or there’s the case of Mark McGwire, who could get one for using banned substances and possibly another once the theory he’s a shaved, albino guerrilla is confirmed.
Of course the best defence is still constant testing.
If the league can’t test every player periodically – which would be hard to believe – it shouldn’t be hard to figure out who would be the ones to test.
If they’ve broken a record in home runs, stolen bases or helmet size, test them for everything.
If when they run between bases they leave a thin cloud of smoke and resemble the Roadrunner, test them.
If they start answering questions during interviews by stopping their foot on the floor – two clops for yes and one for no – test them.
If after striking out they take a large bite out of their bat while in a rageÃ‰ oh what the hell, test them too.
The legitimacy of the record book is what fans are most concerned with – it’s a record and statistic obsessed sport – so big records that fans pay the most attention to should be the ones protected most.
In addition, the league, nay, the government, must make an example of those found guilty. If Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens is found to have committed perjury, throw the book at them and then get some others on the record.
** That is to say, I was hardly shocked at all.
*** Of course, juice monkeys like Bonds, McGuire and Sosa had even longer seasons.
**** Sosa claimed the corked-cheater-club was for batting-practice, something that his coach said was not done on his team.
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