To be educated, one must first be bored.
So bear with me as I’m still having troubles trying to analyze everything I’ve read in the papers and seen on TV dealing with (take deep breath now) Jose Canseco and his controversial tell-all book, the House Committee of Government Reform’s hearing on steroids in baseball, Mark McGwire’s abysmal performance at that hearing, and baseball’s new (cough) drug policy.
So let’s start today’s lesson, shall we? But remember, this is only the beginning and this issue will continue to grab more attention than even the Jennifer Aniston-Brad Pitt split (there aren’t enough tissue in the world that can dry my tears).
First, we’ll turn to page five in your textbooks, where we’ll skim through the key parts of a request of information form (not really a request, though) given to baseball by the Reform committee and a number of sports organizations, including the NHL and NBA, that had to be handed in yesterday:
1. A complete copy of the current drug-testing policy, as well as each drug-testing policy that has been in place since the league began testing for performance-enhancing drugs [then goes into specifics of exactly what info they want—i.e. how testing was conducted, notice provided to players before testing, etc.]
2. For each drug policy provided under No. 1, provide the specifics as to how the policies were formulated and negotiated between the league and other entities.
3. Annual summary on all performance-enhancing drug test results since the league began testing for such drugs [does not ask for names of players tested, but does ask for number of tests given, number of positive tests, and number of positive tests for each drug].
Bored yet? I thought you might be, so let’s turn to page 25. This is where we’ll find one person that has blown the lid on the subject. His name? Jose Canseco. His mission? To place doubt in every fan’s mind whenever a player hits a home run.
In his best-selling book, “Juiced,” Canseco gives detailed eyewitness accounts of using steroids with McGwire, Jason Giambi, and Rafael Palmeiro (yeah, the Viagra guy), among others.
“Raffy [Palmeiro], Juan [Gonzalez], and Ivan [Rodriguez] were definitely scared the first time I injected them, but after a while it became no big deal to them, either,” writes Canseco, who was a teammate with all three during his time with the Texas Rangers, which was owned then by now U.S. President George W. Bush.
But it is obvious the man dubbed “The Chemist” and “The Godfather of Steroids” has an axe to grind.
He believes baseball blackballed him and ruined a potential Hall of Fame legacy by making him baseball’s poster boy for steroid use. But if this is what it takes to raise the window shade on baseball’s dirty little secret, then fine by me.
And if it takes government intervention, then fine by me, too.
That’s where we take our next lesson, class, as you can turn to page 67, where we will touch on the Reform committee’s hearing on steroids in baseball, which was aired live back on March 17.
The setting—a Washington, D.C. hearing room. The characters—a mosaic of senators asking questions (but mostly listening to prepared statements) from some of the game’s best players in Curt Shilling, Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Canseco (even thought he was denied immunity), and McGwire.
Frank Thomas made a statement via video, but did not answer questions.
But it was the statement (or lack of statement) made by McGwire that filled the journalists’ notepads the fastest.
It was theatre at its best—heads turned, strobes flashed, and necks craned to get a glimpse of McGwire as his voice choked with emotion and his eyes nearly filled with tears.
But time after time, he refused to answer the question everyone wanted to know: Did he take illegal steroids when he hit a then-record 70 home runs in 1998, or at any other time?
“If a player answers ‘No,” he simply will not be believed. If he answers ‘Yes,” he risks public scorn and endless government investigations,” McGwire said.
Asked later by Rep. Elijah Cummings whether he was asserting his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, McGwire replied: “I’m not here to talk about the past. I’m here to be positive about this subject.”
But by not answering, McGwire did answer.
He didn’t want to talk about the past. That’s what he said. But now, that part he didn’t want to talk about is all anyone else will ever want to talk about. And that isn’t good for baseball.
This leads us to our last lesson of the day. Please turn to page 89 in your textbooks, where we will outline what the “big wigs” of baseball have done to clean up its tarnished sport.
Under baseball’s labor contract that took effect on Sept. 30, 2002, testing with penalties begins after any season in which more than five percent of survey tests are positive.
And from now on, players will be identified (scratching your head already?)
So starting this season, a first positive test for steroid use will result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.
A third infraction would result in a 25-day suspension or fine of up to $25,000, a 50-day suspension or fine of up $50,000 for a fourth, and a one-year suspension or fine of up to $100,000 for a fifth.
The suspension would be without pay.
So, class, I introduce you to the “Five strikes and you’re out [maybe] policy” (If you showed up to work intoxicated five different times, would you still have that job?)
“I wish I knew in 1995, ’96, ’97, and ’98 what I know now,” said baseball’s commissioner Bud Selig, who also answered questions from the committee.
But when you’re a leader of something known as a (cough) national pastime, you need to go beyond that. You need to say: “I should have known more. I should have done more. I should have investigated earlier.”
But Selig didn’t. Instead, the sport’s future may now be in the hands of a government that is spearheaded by Bush, who didn’t develop a law-and-order passion against steroids (it was an issue he touched upon in his State of the Union address) until after he left the Rangers’ head office for the Oval Office.
To be educated, one must first be bored.