Are we done with this steroids thing yet?
I know it’s news that the best player in the game today, Alex Rodriguez, was caught cheating, part of a list of 104 players who failed the league’s anonymous survey test in 2003. I know that it’s a big deal that A-Rod is now officially A-Fraud and he deserved to have a forum to offer his A-pology (even if it was A-wfully lame). But seriously. It’s time to move on.
To be specific, I’m not referring to the media’s coverage of Rodriguez’s use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). I’m not foolish enough to think this story is moving to the back burner any time soon, particularly since there are still 103 unknown names on that list from 2003. There’s speculation that A-Rod’s name was the only one that was leaked. What if it wasn’t? What if Sports Illustrated has the whole list? What if the venerable magazine is just milking the biggest story of the young year for all that it’s worth? Drop the biggest name to start the feeding frenzy, then slowly introduce the remaining 103 over a more drawn-out timeline. That would be one way to generate buzz, and potential ad dollars, in a time when all magazines are struggling to survive.
However, the endurance of this story – and those of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada the Mitchell Report, Brian McNamee, Kurt Radomski, BALCO, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa – should be a huge clue to Major League Baseball that its handling of this problem has been inadequate and inconclusive. The league’s “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” act has merely let this scandal endure well beyond its expiration date.
Baseball is not the only sport in which PEDs are used, but nothing has sparked an enduring fire like baseball’s steroid scandal. To change that, Major League Baseball must thoroughly and decisively deal with the steroid issue. And maybe now that the juicy details of A-Rod’s life have been made public, they will have to.
Before now, it felt like Commissioner Bud Selig and his cohorts were merely trying to put their fingers in the dike. Their hope was that by buying time, many of their problems would disappear as the tainted home run records of Barry Bonds were eclipsed and purified … by Alex Rodriguez. Whoops.
Some argue the reason the crisis has endured is because the American people, and sports media, care more about baseball records than any other sport’s. I believe the true reason is because there has been a plethora of ammunition that has allowed the story to continually reignite and burn, with a half-assed attempt by MLB to disarm it. With every new story and every new star exposed, the mushroom cloud that has gathered over the game is allowed to endure.
This simply has to end. In order to do that, you have to convince the media and the public that they can rest easy because their vigilance is no longer needed. A concrete, thorough plan should be put in place moving forward and all future fires should be extinguished right now in a controlled burn.
Selig and MLB need to sit down with the players union and reach an agreement. The names of anyone that ever used steroids, HGH or other PEDs that baseball has any knowledge of should be made public. If the 103 other players named in the survey report drag their feet, just point to Clemens, Bonds and A-Rod and say, “Do you really want to go through that?”
Put it in the open. Apologize to the fans for screwing up. Announce a definitive answer to the question of tainted records. It really doesn’t matter what you choose, just so long as a rational choice is made and the American public doesn’t feel like it has to decide for you. Announce that there will be no retroactive action taken against those named in the report and reiterate that there is a firm drug policy in place. If people squabble that there is no reliable test for HGH, counter it by increasing the penalty for its use.
And you know what? The players should go along with that. Sympathy is in short supply these days. Those still dealing with this scandal would be well advised to seize what little is left.