Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dirty little secrets

I have become...shall we say...quite cynical in regards to professional athletes.

It started long before now, but it's been coming to a head.

I've spent a lot of keystrokes on this recently.

Cheating, drugs, the sports version of Enzyte...unnatural athlete enhancement. Call for details. Side effects could include acne, shrinkage, and impotence. Long term effects could include cancer.

I have gotten to the point where the benefit of the doubt is no longer afforded.

Hank Steinbrenner can cry all he wants about what he perceives as a drug problem in football, and baseball being picked on. He will get sympathy from precious few out there. He deserves none.

Yes, there's still a performance enhancer problem in football. The difference is that the NFL has at least made an effort for over a decade and a half, or the appearance of an effort. Baseball had to be pushed into it. And the Player's Union is still being dragged into compliance.

Don't believe the last statement, consider that Donald Fehr told his constituents not to talk to George Mitchell. To stonewall the investigation.

What's the dirty little secret of professional sports?

The dirty little secret is that we're watching the games, races, matches and what have you, being contested on an even playing field...in a really twisted way.

While I'm sure that there are many professional athletes that are clean, I have to believe, in light of the numbers in the Mitchell Report, that there's a majority of players out there on the juice. I won't even get into team-related things like Spygate, salary cap violations, allegations of teams in baseball setting up cameras over the centerfield wall in order to steal signs, and so on.

As for those numbers in the Mitchell Report...as I recently noted to someone, there were over 80 players implicated in the former senator's report. Better than three teams' worth of players. That's based largely on the testimony of two dealers/informants out of New York City. Mitchell himself said that his work was not definitive.

It makes me wonder, if the investigators were able to link 80 names based on two guys out of New York, just how many they would have been able to name had they been able to identify the suppliers in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, and any number of other places. Fifty percent of major leaguers? Seventy?

Everyone talks about Hank Aaron's home run record, but how many records are tainted by PED use? We all now know that Eric Gagne was juicing when he set the record for consecutive saves, and anyone that wants to tell me that those drugs have no effect, look at what Gagne was like this past season. Don't tell me it was the injuries he suffered a couple of years ago. He was healthy this year. Based on what he was like last season, Gagne would never have approached the level he was at when he was the most dominant closer in baseball.

I'm not trying to pick on baseball here.

As I mentioned before, Steinbrenner is (I can feel the bile in the back of my throat) right. Football still has a problem. According to transcripts in the BALCO case, the vast majority of players on the Broncos and the 49ers were implicated in the use of HGH.

That doesn't take into account our hometown Rodney Harrison, the members of the Panthers Super Bowl entrant, Bill Romanowksi, Shawn Merriman, and any number of other players who have been nailed since.

I'm not even touching on bicycling, which saw its thinnest competition in the Tour de France last year due to doping disqualifications. Or running, a sport that has seen some of its biggest stars nailed over the course of the last two decades - Ben Johnson, Marion Jones, Tim Montgomery, marathoner Uta Pippig.

Then, of course, we even saw boxing (big surprise) implicated in the Albany investigation.

It's hard to look at what is happening at the highest levels of athletic competition and not view these people with some level of skepticism.


Chris Stone said...

Good post. I think one of the problems in dealing with PED is what seems to effect some other mega corporations... quick profit goals and short term thinking. They are not protecting their investment by not dealing with PED seriously and proactively. People can fault the players union, but I think its the owners fear of this pervasive problem that has left it a criminal proceedings rather than a preemptive test.

and, I think the NFL has made pretty much just an appearance of an effort. I believe (may be wrong) that the NFL has only banned methamphetamines this past yr or so. (!) (I listen to "Only a Game" on NPR.)

Controling HGH through criminal proceedings vs testing is discriminatory.... it depends on how good/bad the drug dealer is. And its soooo messy. It invites the causal watcher (me) to wonder when you see really pumped up players. And you see a lot in the NFL!

Why don't they all just get a clue!!!!

Kevin Smith said...

Unfortunately, I think baseball has brought this on itself. I fully support the criminal proceedings, if for no other reason, than there is a double standard applied here.

The baseball players who have obtained the PED's (particularly steroids) have done so in violation of federal statute. In any other career field an individual who engages in a practice that violates federal law not only goes to jail, but loses their job. But the baseball union hides behind the concept that something illegal can be collectively bargained. That's ridiculous.

I do, however, have an issue with the government getting involved when violations within the context of the sport that are clearly not in violation of the laws of state and country.

I think that the NFL's effort has been for show, but not completely. I have a hard time believing that all these svelte 300+ pound linemen are perfectly clean. 20 years ago there were fewer than 30 players over 300 pounds - and they all looked fat. Now they're built like Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Michael Strahan, and so on. Now, the 300 pounder is common-place, but the fat 300 pounder - the guys like Warren Sapp, Vince Wilfork - they're in the minority. Has the human physique really changed that much from simple diet and exercise in 20 years? I'd be surprised.