On Punishing Baseball Drug Use Before '04

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

Baseball’s Commissioner Bud Selig, in the face of Yankee Alex Rodriguez now admitting to using performance enhancing drugs over a two-year period, says he will consider suspending A-Rod. Selig also states that he will ponder taking away Barry Bonds’ all-time home run record and reinstating that revered top dog position to Hank Aaron, should Bonds be found guilty of using performance drugs in his early March trial.

There are journalists aplenty who applaud these considerations. There are throngs of fans who have lost faith in these two players and now relegate them to fraud/cheater status.

Me? I say you can’t judge from the rear-view mirror. In 2004 the sport of baseball finally established its hard-and-fast punishment rules for drug use. Now, if Barry Bonds is guilty of lying to a Federal Grand Jury, that’s another matter. We’ve had clear-cut laws governing that crime for a long time. If Alex Rodriguez is guilty of lying to Katie Couric during a 60 Minutes interview, which he did, then he deserves to lose some credibility ground with the public. But when there was no punishment framework in place for steroid use before 2004, how can we go back prior to that date and now dole out suspensions, asterisks in the record books, removal from the record books, stonewalling entrances to the Hall of Fame?

Shall we assign some Pulitzer-award-winning investigative journalists to carefully investigate every member of the Baseball Hall of Fame? I guarantee they would not only ferret out a few performance-drug users but quite a few slippery types who got away with corked bats, slimy spitballs, cheating signals from the opposite dugouts, and a host of other improprieties that violated the sport’s rules.

What about the Pro Football Hall of Fame? If the same team of investigators dug into the pharmaceutical history of all those players from the football steroid era, the guys who chewed Dianabol for breakfast back in the 50’s and 60’s and into the 70’s, we would be shocked to learn how many of the greats of the gridiron were juiced. Or would we?

What about the Tour de France? If we could put bamboo shoots under the fingernails of the trainers and family members of all the great cycling champions, you don’t think we’d learn the whole truth about illegal amphetamine use in that sport dating back more than a century…and illegal oxygen-enhancing substances aplenty in more recent times?

There are over 100 names on the still-cacheted list of Major League Baseball players who have purportedly used steroids in the current era. One of those guys, Alex Rodriguez, his name thrown into the press for one positive test in 2003, came forward to confess he used not just one time but for two years, from '01 to '03. So what’s going to happen when the list of 100 is printed in the New York Times? Will Bud Selig consider suspending all of them? Wiping their various records off the books?

Let’s get real. It seems a grand overstatement, but the truth is that virtually all sports since the days of the ancient Greeks have been the testing ground for any and every method to exploit the nth degree of talent, to seek a constant zenith of performance. And manipulating body chemistry has been the crux of many of those experiments.

I firmly believe that Mark McGwire jacked his muscles up with testosterone. And that Barry Bonds put on many pounds of muscle with his use of the “clear” and the “cream”. But we can’t randomly start persecuting these guys who ran their performance experiments before 2004. Now we know the rules. Now they know the rules. Commissioner Selig and outraged fans, unless you have a just plan to pinpoint all the past drug users of the sport, I urge you to let the past go and PLAY BALL!

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



Diana Nyad