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Congress vs Baseball

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and this is The Score.

Major League Baseball has been called to the hallowed halls of Congress today and forced by subpoena to testify as to the extent of steroid use and steroid control in their sport. I-ve heard a lot of people voice the opinion over the last couple of days that, surely, Congress has more crucial and relevant issues to probe at this moment in time. Well, I must argue that illegal performance drug use by the stars of our national past time should absolutely come under the purview of our lawmakers.

Athletes set the health standards in our society. People interested in fitness and health turn first to the elite in sports to learn how they build their bodies, what they eat, how they recuperate from fatigue, what they do to achieve their maximum potential. It has been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that steroid use among high school students has become a certifiable public health issue. It has also been established that these kids, estimated at one in sixteen high school seniors who have used steroids, are directly -inspired---if you can put it that way--by the pros who are users. Abuse of anabolic steroids is just as big a problem among our youth as is abuse of the rave drug ecstasy. If we turn a blind eye to the pros growing 20- arms over a summer and muscling balls 480 feet out of the park, thanks to illegal and dangerous injectible steroids, how can we possibly begin to control steroids at the high school level?

Baseball has a clear history of categorically turning a blind eye to performance drug cheating among their ranks. Even during the seasons when Jos- Canseco was jeered as he stepped to the plate as a -roid freak, and he and others obviously made exponential leaps in size in short off-season periods, no questions were asked. Even after the death of Ken Caminiti, even after the admissions of Jason Giambi, even after last month-s release of Canseco-s tell-all book, Major League Baseball continues with their meaningless sham of a drug policy, the weakest in all of sport. Track and field athletes would laugh at the short list of substances baseball tests for. Any seasoned steroid user knows that the menu of steroid cousins is long and complex. Human Growth Factor, for example, has become popular in certain circles because it produces size and power but isn-t as yet as easy to test for as some of the anabolic steroids, such as Winstrol. But Human Growth Factor is not on baseball-s banned list. Also, the backroom buzz among users is much about what masking agents they should use to make steroid detection difficult, or how many diuretics to use to raise the water ratio in their systems before being tested-again a procedure to make steroid detection tricky. Masking agents and diuretics are not on baseball-s banned list.

Compounding this joke of a testing plan, baseball-s slap on the wrist for a first offense is a 10-game suspension. Ten games! This is the message a high school athlete hears loud and clear: -Steroids make you bigger and stronger than you could ever achieve working on your own in the weight room. Steroids give you that edge to hit the ball out of the park. And, even though we-ve been forced by other authorities to call steroid use cheating, we don-t really think it-s such a big deal so, if you-re caught, don-t sweat it. You-ll sit out a few games and get right back into uniform.-

It took the Olympic movement several decades to learn, the hard way, that the only solution to clearing the storied name of the Olympics was to bring in an outside agency to ferret out performance drug users. Baseball-s commissioner Bud Selig naively said a month ago that he-s confident baseball will be completely rid of steroids by the end of this season. Not if they-re the ones doing their own policing. That-s why the lawmakers of Congress have muscled their way into baseball-s business. We need to trust our champions. Our kids need to trust them. Not believing in Santa Claus is one thing. But not believing in Barry Bonds? That-s heartbreaking.

This is Diana Nyad for KCRW, and that-s The Score.

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