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FROM THIS EPISODE

Drugs

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

Baseball Commisioner Bud Selig, after reprimands from Congress, finally acquiesced and has come up with a truly tough drug plan. Instead of a mere ten-game suspension for a first offense, Selig's new stance is a 50-game suspension. Second offense, 100 games. Third offense, banned from the game forever. This is the first time we are to believe baseball recognizes the strong steps it takes to curb drug use within their ranks. At least on the management side. Now convincing the Players Union to vote these new sanctions in, that's no easy road to travel.

Also this week, champion swimmer Shirley Babashoff was awarded the much coveted Olympic Order. Babashoff may have easily wound up as successful, and as memorable, as Mark Spitz, but instead she won a bunch of silver medals at the Montreal Games in 1976. Worse, she was unfairly perceived as a poor sport, a whiner, because during the Games themselves she publicly accused her East German rivals of doping. The press took to reviling her, calling her nicknames such as &quotSurly; Shirley&quot.; She was convinced the East Germans' muscles were too huge, their voices too low, and in some cases their beard lines too distinct to be natural females. Babashoff lost all her individual races to the uber Germans, and felt so wronged that she basically became a recluse for the following thirty years. We know now that Babashoff called it right. Those East Germans were all on the juice. The court system in Germany has since found many coaches, doctors, sports authorities and athletes guilty of cheating back then, and now the Olympic movement tries to do right by those who competed fair and square. So now Babashoff receives an Olympic honor yet she talks about all the swimmers who finished fourth but should have gone home with the lifetime treasure of an Olympic medal. And no matter how many times she watches video tape of those Montreal Olympics, the Olympics that should have been hers, Shirley Babashoff keeps finishing second.

And to our final drug story of the day. the thoroughbreds set to run in this Saturday's Kentucky Derby are at this very moment being tested for some 140 different drugs. The most aggressive test is for what is called in the horse world &quotmilkshakes;" which are alkalizing agents that lessen an animal's fatigue during these wire-to-wire romps. What I can't understand is, that if horses are known for cheating by using performance drugs, as are human athletes (and by the way, one Derby winner was actually disqualified after testing post-race for an illegal substance--that was Dancer's Image in 1968) then why haven't horses run any faster over the last entire century? I'm looking through the times of the Derby champions here, dating back to 1911. The winning horse that year, Meridien, crossed the wire in 2 minutes, 5 seconds. Well, except for the superlative Secretariat in 1973 and Monarchos in 2001, both of whom ran the 1 and 1/4 mile distance under two minutes, all the other winners since 1911 have been clocked in virtually the same time. As a matter of fact, last year's Derby victor, Smarty Jones, was slower than many of the horses of the 1930's. That would be like Olympic runners of today running no faster than Jesse Owens did in Berlin in 1936. And another thought about thoroughbred racing. Just about the time the East Germans were pumping up on steroids, in the -60's and -70's, the then Soviet athletes were being groomed literally from birth to pursue various sports, depending on their genetic make-up, and the Western press considered that genetic selection an outrage. Well, in the thoroughbred horse world, blood lines are everything. From buying a horse to betting him, the first consideration is his family tree. There's actually something called the &quotdosage; index" of a horse, whereby you input numbers from his parentage and come up with an idea of just how fast he should be able to cover a particular distance.

I think I'll go to Vegas and lay 100-to-1 that these children of Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf will be Wimbledon champions by the year 2025.

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

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