A-Rod or no A-Rod scandal, performance enhancing drugs are as much a way of life with at least some high profile athletes as is running, catching and throwing. There’s ample evidence to feature PED use in many sports, but let’s conduct a quick surveillance story on Major League Baseball and banned substances. Bleacher seats rocked while Mark McGwire (admitted steroid use only after his MLB career ended), Sammy Sosa (tested positive for a performance enhancing drug in 2003) and Barry Bonds (routinely suspected of PED use and mentioned more than 100 times in the Mitchell report on PED use in Major League Baseball but never absolutely proven to have succumbed to the steroids lure) were tearing the cover off baseballs and shattering previously considered unreachable Major League Baseball hitting and home run records. And Major League Baseball? How engaged was it in policing against PED use after the fan support destroying cancellation of the conclusion of the 1994 season?
There was more than just a blind eye turned toward McGwire, Sosa and a guy named Jose Canseco. McGwire and Canseco were marketed as the “Bash Brothers” while playing for the Oakland A’s. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Today is different, eh? Today PED use is punished, right? Exhibit A? Alex Rodriguez. A teary 2009 confession to PED use by A-Rod was followed by a “judge me by what I do from here on forward.” Cool. Major League Baseball allowed the reformed A-Rod to continue to wear his New York Yankees uniform. However, in 2013, Rodriguez, 38 years of age and dealing with a body which is failing him is consigned as official road-kill and handed that probably career ending 211 game suspension for returning (some say he never left) to PEDs. Sure, Alex Rodriguez is appealing, but it’s over. Is it over because of his use of PEDs, or is he finished because he’s 38 and dragging an increasingly unresponsive bat on a weary frame? Were Alex Rodriguez 27 and at the prime of his baseball ability would he still be thrown to the wolves, or salvaged by a massive public relations campaign? Think Ryan Braun.
Young enough to remain a star in big league ballparks, Braun accepted a 65 game suspension to end the 2013 season after accused PED doctor Tony Bosh named Braun on a client list. However, Braun made a deal with Major League Baseball and while not admitting to PED use did agree he had “made some mistakes” and was “willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” Braun will serve his suspension and suit up again. A-Rod and Ryan Braun are publicly reviled by many of their peers. The question is how many of them will pass all future pee in the bottle tests. PEDs are a fact of sport life and not just in professional baseball. They will continue to be used and will assist in setting records and fattening bank balances and not necessarily in that order of importance. The time has come to legalize PEDs, to make them more safe for the athletes who in an informed manner choose to use while administered by a physician. Short of that reality, continue to expect more blaring and non-surprising headlines about A-Rods, Mark McGwire’s, Lance Armstrong’s, etc.