Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Would the Tour have Tiger's back if he tested positive?

Doug Barron, a fringe PGA Tour golfer, is the only one to run afoul of the PGA Tour's drug testing program. Barron lost a motion that would have allowed him to compete in Qualifying School with the hopes of earning his PGA Tour card.

Barron had a reason for failing the drug test and had alerted the PGA Tour earlier about various medications his doctor had prescribed. The PGA Tour denied his therapeutic use exemption and told him to get off the drugs. By not following the Tour's advice earlier, Barron paid the ultimate price.

With only one golfer ensnared by the drug program, would the PGA Tour suspend Tiger Woods if he tested positive for a banned substance? Magic 8 ball says, "Not looking likely."

It's a classic example of where doing the right thing, financially cripples the organization. Could the PGA Tour afford to suspend Tiger for a year? The LPGA has lost events for the past two years. The statistics show that ratings and attendance are up when Tiger is playing. With that in mind, the Tour knows who butters their bread and would be hard pressed to do the right thing if a sample came back positive.

Who knows, maybe Tiger, like Jordan before him, will decide to pick up a new sport while at the peak of his career. Conspiracy theorists would have a field day.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why A-rod will never be Sportsman of the Year

Derek Jeter was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated earlier this week. That’s not all that surprising given Jeter being a class act. He’s the captain of his team, been with the same team since he started his career and comes through in the clutch.

The same cannot be said for his teammate, Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod admitted before the season that he used PED’s earlier in his career. After returning from an injury, A-Rod performed at a high level. It appeared that admitting his drug use, freed him from his performance anxiety he suffered from earlier in his Yankee tenure.

Jeter does things the right way while A-Rod is more concerned with how his behavior will be perceived by the media. During an All-Star Game, Jeter cheered on his teammates until the end of the game while A-Rod checked out early to host a party. Further proof that A-Rod will never be a Sportsman of the Year, but A-Rod thinks the media is out to get him.

Reports of jealousy between A-Rod and Jeter have been circulating for years. A-Rod must deal with the perception, real or imagined that for all his missteps, Jeter handled himself with class and dignity. There could have been an infomercial on when certain situations arise; this is how not to behave (A-Rod) contrasted with the appropriate behavior (Jeter).

Sports Illustrated should be commended for making the right choice in honoring Derek Jeter with the award. Meanwhile, it’s just another stab that will upset A-Rod. He might be the highest paid player in baseball, but he has a lot to learn from the captain of his team.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New York area loves their cheater

Last night Alex Rodriguez delivered in the postseason for the New York Yankees, tying Game 2 of the American League Division Series with the Minnesota Twins in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run home run. The crowd at Yankee Stadium went nuts. The crowd at the Connecticut sports bar I saw the game also went nuts. Chants of “Let’s go Yankees!” ensued as A-Rod rounded the bases.

What differences several months makes and for that matter, a couple of years. Time really does heal all wounds. In February it was revealed that A-Rod used PEDs while with the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez confirmed this report. During his tenure as a Yankee in the postseason, he has not come through in the clutch. While he has won MVP awards and delivered the team to the postseason, he never truly delivered in the postseason until now.

Could his newfound production in the postseason be a result that he has “come clean” with the public and admitted that he cheated previously? If what he admitted was true, only using PEDs while with the Rangers, could he have doubted his ability to perform in the clutch without the benefit of PEDs?

What last night’s reaction proves, both at the stadium and the bar, is the public will tolerate cheaters…as long as they are our cheaters.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

How many people are unknowingly using PEDs?

This month, I suffered a number of setbacks. From a freakish running injury to a serious bout with pneumonia, it has not been a productive month for fall marathon training. As a result of these issues, the fall marathon is in serious jeopardy. Having a time goal for the race and missing weeks of training is leaning towards choosing a race later in the year.

The freakish injury is possibly for a later time. At first, I thought I was suffering a severe cold with major congestion in the lungs. Sleep it out over the weekend and I should be good to go. Like the ad says, not exactly.

Still experiencing problems breathing, racing heartbeat going to bed, wheezing cough I went to the doctor. I told him I thought I had pneumonia. Ran through my symptoms, he ran a few simple tests and said my diagnosis was spot on.

He prescribed amoxicillin and gave me an inhaler. Before telling me what it was, he showed me how to use it and excitedly encouraged me to take a pull. I did as I was told and after looking at the box I recognized the drug. I’m neither a pharmacist nor a doctor, but Symbicort is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This drug falls under WADA’s Beta - 2 Agonists.
Was the doctor obligated to advise me of this beforehand? What if I requested an alternative that is not banned by WADA, could he have obliged or is their a relationship between the manufacturer of Symbicort and this doctor? Several doctors I visit seem to have only one drug sample or prescribe only one drug – why is that?

Athletes are famous for going to the “I never knowingly used PEDs” card. My experience lends some credence to that excuse, but with one major exception: elite athletes need to question everything given to them – period. Dara Torres uses Symbicort to treat her asthma.

If my doctor freely gave me a banned substance by WADA, how many other people are using banned substances unknowingly? It’s scary to speculate. ADD, Viagra and other asthma medications just to name a few, but unlike elite athletes, these average joes and janes are using those meds to treat their illness or enhance their life, not get an unfair edge against the competition.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The good old days of passing drug tests

Stop the presses! According to the New York Post, Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor submitted a teammate’s urine sample when he failed his first drug test in 1987. Taylor disclosed this information on the YES network’s “Centerstage” program.

Is this revelation shocking? Absolutely not, Taylor has had repeated run ins with the law and displayed erratic behavior throughout the years attributing most of that behavior to drug use. He also explained to host Michael Kay that after he retired, he wanted to “do recreational drugs again.”

Mission accomplished LT. It would appear that LT didn’t just jump back into recreational drugs half ass. He pursued it like Joe Montana in the 4th quarter of the NFC Championship Game. While he didn’t admit to using PEDs, it’s amazing how the evolution of avoiding detection has transpired since the days of LT.

Back in LT’s day, someone else provided “clean” urine. ..or so that was the plan. Then it evolved to Whizzinators and once that was discovered as a way of passing drug tests, officials then had to witness athletes provide samples. Why the need for officials to witness a sample being provided? Athletes will do whatever it takes to get an edge: real or perceived. They have been doing so since the dawn of time.

The evolution will continue. The cheaters are always ahead of the enforcers. Eventually other cheaters will admit to how they were caught or evaded authorities, but while these athletes might eventually come clean, they still will have their moment in the sun when they achieved greatness through artificial means.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pro wrestling takes another hit

Another pro wrestler has been linked to painkillers. This time Rey Mysterio, real name Oscar Gutierrez , was brought down for not providing a valid prescription for painkillers, in violation of the WWE's Wellness Program.

Give World Wrestling Entertainment credit: they have a wellness program in place and enforce it. Their main competition Total Nonstop Action (TNA) does not. Even though the company's announcement of the suspension was only 26 words and did not specify how Gutierrez violated the program, putting one of their most popular stars on the sidelines for 30 days furthers the argument that there are no favorites under this policy.

The real test will be when the main character is caught red handed; will the company suspend the employee that brings in the most money for them?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why Louisville should fire Rick Pitino

Imagine a high school baseball player being instructed not to take PEDs by a player who took PEDs and made it to the big leagues. Would the high school athlete listen to coach’s words or follow his past actions?

The University of Louisville has a similar situation on their hands in how they deal with Rick Pitino who admitted to having sex with a woman six years ago in a restaurant who then allegedly attempted to extort $10 million dollars. His latest book, Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0, might have been foreshadowing things to come in his personal life. Pitino has had a second career as an author, motivational speaker and preaching leadership skills to whoever would scratch him a check. Now that this development has come out, will his players and recruits and corporate followers, listen to him when he teaches them the art of success?

Pitino is paid millions of dollars to lead the transformation of kids into men. Can he do that now? Pitino will try to spin this as a “learn from my mistake” lesson. Unlike the evangelical leader caught with a male prostitute who claims to be swayed by Satan, Pitino can’t spin it like that. When you represent the university and arguably are the face of the University of Louisville, you can’t be caught up in those situations, ever. Blaming it on an “indiscretion” is not a valid excuse. Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was not allowed to slide based on his “indiscretion.” Also, unlike Pitino’s spinning, the University of Louisville president, James Ramsey, implied that Pitino was not entirely truthful in his dealings with the university. Ramsey said in a statement, “Several months ago, Coach Pitino informed me about the alleged extortion attempt. I’ve now been informed that there may be other details which, if true, I find surprising.”

Shouldn’t the university president expect the same from Coach Pitino as Pitino expect from his players, or is that asking too much?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Phelps loses. Is it the suits?

Of course it's the suits. Michael Phelps, the greatest swimmer of all-time and most famous person to rip it off a bong, came in second in the 200 meter freestyle yesterday at the World Championships in Rome. This was the first individual race that Phelps did not win in four years.

He lost to German Paul Biedermann who set a world record with 1 minute 42.00, shattering Phelps’s year-old world record of 1:42.96. At the Beijing Games, Biedermann finished fifth with a time of 1:46.
Biedermann said, “It was amazing to swim against Michael Phelps. I was there when he won his eighth gold medal. Just to live this moment and now I’m actually faster than him — I feel absolutely great about it.”

Don’t kid yourself Paul – you’re not actually faster than Michael Phelps, based on your more buoyant swimsuit, you were assisted in your victory over Phelps. What would happen if both swimmers competed in cotton boxers? Would Biedermann still be faster than Phelps?

In the first three days of competition, 63% of the races witnessed a world record, or 15 out of 24.

Phelps was unable to “level the playing the field” and use a similar swimsuit since he is sponsored by Speedo. Speedo’s swimsuits are not made entirely of polyurethane like Biedermann’s. FINA has banned these suits startining January 1, 2010, but is now unsure when the ban will take place. The lack of a definitive date has irked Phelps’ coach who has threatened removing him from international competition.

Initially, the goal was to have these swimsuits banned before the World Championships so the record book would not be skewed out of proportion. Unfortunately, with FINA’s lack of progress, they damaged the sport’s biggest stars credibility and now made these current world records that much more difficult to break for future swimmers. Have the decision makers at FINA have been drinking the Kool-Aid from Major League Baseball? If so, time to switch to a new beverage.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

High-Tech Suits Are Banned

In a move that did not surprise anyone, FINA, swimming’s governing body, has banned high-tech swimsuits. However, like most sound decisions, the ban will not start until 2010, allowing swimmers one last hurrah at this weekend’s World Championships in Rome.

When Speedo introduced the LZR Racer swimsuit seventeen months ago, more than 130 world records have fallen. Some swimmers supported the measure including the sports biggest star, Michael Phelps. FINA’s new proposal is that the suits be made of permeable materials and that there be limits to have much the suit covers one’s body.

Now the debate has begun as to whether these swimmers were cheating by using the enhanced swimsuits. One swimmer, Rebecca Adlington, said she would never take a drug so why should she be considered a cheater for swimming in LZR Racer. Mark Schubert, the general manager of the United States national team, suggests that the records from this era should be wiped out because they were achieved through artificial assistance.

This debate has many parallels to the steroid era in baseball. Athletes claiming that they would never knowingly cheat. However, as long as what they are doing is not against the rules, they will take whatever edge they can find. Previously, Italian freestyler Federica Pellegrini wore two swimsuits on her way to a gold medal in Beijing to make her more buoyant. Like baseball dealing with the steroid era, swimming will be debating how to deal with the swimsuit era and those who are unable to maintain their prior levels of accomplishments will be forced to admit that it was a result of the suits.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Karma at the All-Star Game

This year's All-Star Game was actually exciting and watchable...a rare combination indeed. What I found most telling was how it ended with Miguel Tejada making the last out for the National League.

When Tejada first came to the plate, he crushed a fly ball that actually elicited an emotional response from Joe Buck, but alas, the power was not there and the ball landed in the outfielder's glove.

Miguel Tejada earlier this year was sentenced to one year of probation for misleading Congressional investigators during the 2005 steroid investigation. Tejada was also mentioned in the Mitchell Report being linked to two purchases of PEDs. When he came to his last at bat, Buck mentioned his AL MVP award in 2002 and was the MVP of the 2005 All-Star Game, yet failed to mention his ties with PEDs or his recent sentencing.

I thought it was another strikeout on the part of MLB to award a player with "All-Star" recognition who lied to investigators and has been linked to PEDs. Neither of the two biggest stars to be linked to PEDs this year, Alex Rodriguez or Manny Ramirez, were selected by their respective managers to be a reserve on the team like Tejada.

Perhaps Tejada not coming through in the clutch and Buck failing to address the elephant in the room, still illustrates that baseball does not have the foresight to make smart business decisions to promote their game. Karma is real.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Power Outage in Minor League Baseball

Recently, I attended a triple A minor league game in Portland, OR. The stadium was beautiful. The price ($9 day of, $8 in advance) was right. Yet, something was amiss and I'm not talking about the fact that a beer cost more than an advance ticket ($8.75).

As each batter came up, the statistics were downright dismal. Batting averages constantly below 300, only two batters out of both teams had double digit home runs with their All-Star Game a little more than a week away. These players are supposedly the future of their respective ball clubs and they are not lighting it up? What gives?

Stay tuned, this will require some more research.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Timing of the Donald Fehr announcement

It was announced yesterday that the head of the baseball players' association, Donald Fehr, will be stepping down from the post no later than the end of March. His legacy and what that announcement means to the role of PEDs in baseball has already started to be debated.

The timing of the announcement is suspect. Normally, an announcement would take place at the end of the season. The next collective bargaining agreement is in 2011 so there will be plenty of time for his successor, Michael Weiner, to get acclimated with the process.

Most speculation about the timing of his resignation has to do with last week's leak of Sammy Sosa's positive test in 2003 to the survey test results. Those results were to be anonymous. However, all 104 positive test results from the 2003 survey tests were seized by the government. The union, under Fehr's leadership failed it's membership by not destroying the results. Is it possible more names will leaked? Will there be pressure for the other 102 names to be released rather than have a small trickle of information every couple of months?

The reason why the results were not destroyed was Fehr was trying to protect his membership. If he was able to find false positives amongst the 104, he could possibly lower the number of positive results to below the 5% threshold. Under the agreement reached between the union and baseball, if more than 5% tested positive in 2003, mandatory testing would be implemented with penalties for positives. Looking back, this all seems relatively straightforward and common sense, but the union argued that drug testing violated a player's right to privacy.

It's too early to tell if Fehr's resignation had anything to do with the recent Sosa leak, but it would immensely clear up the air if they were able to state for certain that the union has any knowledge where the leak is coming from. Time will tell.    

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


DWM – Driving while on meth? Reportedly that is what Jeremy Mayfield tested positive for and resulted in his suspension according to ESPN the Magazine.

Previously, Mayfield and NASCAR had two very different stories explaining the failed drug test. Mayfield stuck to his mixture of a prescription drug with over-the-counter allergy medication Claritin-D defense. NASCAR’s drug testing administrator rejected that explanation.

Reading between the lines, this story was not going to end with a fairy tale ending: prescription drugs combined with Claritin? How many possibilities are there that one would test positive for with that combination? However, Mayfield can salvage his reputation with NASCAR fans by owning it, making some amends and promising to be a better man. It’s a country song cliché, but those themes are universal and appealing to most people.

Denying and lying just make you look sleazy and any hopes of a future career in the sport have officially come to a screeching halt if Mayfield continues this course of action.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Baseball Fans Taking a Moral Stand?

With the release of the fans’ current NL All Star standings yesterday, Manny Ramirez is slipping fast. He is now sixth. When these rankings were first released in late May, he was fourth. Only the top three vote getters will start the All Star Game.

Why the change of heart? Are MLB fans tired of players roiding out of their minds and cheating to get ahead? It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Some players including Jimmy Rollins and even Ramirez’s manager, Joe Torre, came out against Ramirez being an All-Star since he tested positive for a banned substance. The substance he tested positive for was a woman’s fertility drug, human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG. HCG is used by roiders to regulate their testosterone levels after coming off a steroid cycle.

Respective parties involved in this dispute will fight for their positions such as the Player’s Association will rightfully say that they have a collectively bargained agreement that allows Ramirez the right to participate in the game, but let’s use some common sense. Using banned substances and cheating the game whether intentional or not should not be rewarded with a trip to the All-Star Game. It’s that simple. The longer the fans vote and reward this behavior, the union fights for their right and MLB remains passive on this issue, the more likely fans will start to drift away and parents will look elsewhere for true role models to show their children right from wrong.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Player v. Blogger

This week saw a new trend emerge in sports: a player responding to a blogger.

Earlier this week, Midwest Sports Fans blogger Jerod Morris, questioned how 37-year old Raul Ibanez was able to get off to such a hot start after flying under the radar for most of his career. At the time of Morris’ post, Ibanez had 19 HR, 54 RBI, 46 R and .329 BA through 55 games. In 2006, Ibanez had a career best 33 HR, with the Seattle Mariners.

Morris analyzed factors such as home ballparks, quality of pitching faced and the new lineup in Philadelphia. He then went on to “acknowledge the elephant in the room.” The elephant being that when an aging player comes out of nowhere to put up unusual numbers, doubts are raised…especially after all the repeated denials of players past and present later to be found out to have cheated.

Ibanez was not a fan of the insinuation, looking into the possibility of taking legal action. Taking a page from the roider’s handbook, he came out firing saying, "I'll give back every dime I've ever made.”

I have endorsed that idea in the past. Contracts need to be tied to the athletes behaving ethically. If you are caught using you PED’s you would need to return all monies earned in your current contract. These guys are still role models, right? If you’re cheating, you shouldn’t be rewarded. A change the incentives will lead to a change in behavior.

As faith should have it, Ibanez hit a 3 run home run in the 10th inning to beat the Mets last night. It’s his 21st of the season, one behind MLB leader Adrian Gonzalez with 22.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Another Call for Manny to Sit Out the All-Star Game

Bill Rhoden of The New York Times is calling for MLB and the players union (MLBPA) to change the rules of the All Star Game in light of Manny Ramirez’s 50 game suspension of using a banned substance. Sentiments that were first echoed here at Beef Roids 9 days earlier.

Rhoden takes his ban one step further to include any postseason award. Ramirez’s manager, Joe Torre, has publicly said Ramirez should not be allowed to play in the game even though he is entitled to play based on the current collective bargaining agreement between baseball and the players union. Other current players feel strongly that it sends the wrong message. Jimmy Rollins said it best: “If you get caught in the first half of the season, no matter who you are, what you mean to the game, you shouldn’t be an All-Star. It shouldn’t really be a question. Even if he’s leading in the voting or is second, he’s basically taking a spot for somebody else who is more deserving.”

It should be noted that other sports have similar rules preventing athletes who test positive for banned substances from participating in postseason awards or all-star type events.

Rhoden was also able to speak with the executive director of the MLBPA, Donald Fehr, to get his opinion on the topic. “We have an agreement. This situation was considered during the time the agreement was negotiated. If the suspension takes place during the time the All-Star Game is played, the player is not eligible. If it’s over, and he has completed the penalty, then he’s like any other player.”

An amendment to the current contract will only be added at the time of the next agreement. I’m all for two parties collectively bargaining an agreement. What I’m against is idiotic behavior and baseball is once again going down that path. What both sides fail to realize that clinging to the “agreement” argument is that it turns off fans. There was an “agreement” collectively bargained for that allowed baseball to dope and roid out of their minds (even though it was illegal to have without a prescription) until Congress intervened and forced both sides to reopen the “agreement.”

Commissioner Selig and Donald Fehr: Do the right thing and use some common sense before you alienate even more fans.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Next Radomski?

Late last month, a central Florida man was arrested with thousands of steroid pills and other PED's in his home. Upon his arrest, he was eager to speak to the police.

Richard Thomas said he sold PED's to professional football, hockey and baseball players before he was arrested last month. He specifically mentioned the teams Washington Capitals of the NHL and the Washington Nationals of MLB. Authorities do not have any information to verify these claims.

Thomas said, "You name the sport, and I've sold steroids to athletes who play it."

What's interesting about these allegations involving the Capitals is that the team passed three rounds of drug tests during the past two seasons. Either the drug dealer Thomas is lying or the drug testing program in the NHL needs a major overhaul. Should be interesting to see how this development plays out.

Just when one thinks the issue of PED's in professional sports hits a lull, a major story breaks alleging teams from multiple professional leagues. Now, it's a matter of time to see who is lying: arrested drug dealer or members of the alleged teams.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dara Torres Tested for PED's

According to Dara Torres' Twitter page, she was subjected to an unannounced drug test by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) yesterday. In her words, “Nothing like getn ready 2 jump in the pool and USADA (drug testing) shows up! Tried to hold it all practice, got 3/4 of the way!!”

At least we know USADA is doing their job and are apparently making unannounced visits to athletes out of competition. If Torres is still taking her medications, the test will come back positive, but she has a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for asthma, so it’s all good. Athletes without the TUE would come up positive and be subject the sport’s governing body regarding violation of their doping rules.

For Torres to be all bubbly about testing seems a bit insincere. An examination of the facts reveals that she was diagnosed with asthma a little over two years ago. She spends over $100,000 on support for her training and supervision of her child, benefits that younger swimmers do not have. Again, it begs the question, someone with the financial wherewithal to see the best doctors and trainers being diagnosed with asthma at 39 seems strange. After being the recipient of the TUE, she then goes on to post times that were faster than when she swam 20 years ago. We have learned that some of the explanation comes from changes in swimsuit design, but using drugs that would have a teammate suspended does not seem that noble. If she was experiencing significant health problems without taking the prohibited substance, how come this issue was not discovered at an earlier time?

While it’s a great story that she was able to come back and break records, a closer look reveals some questionable actions taken on her part to achieve those results.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fallout from Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick's comments to Dan Patrick regarding PED's have drawn some heat.

Now Danica says she was "joking" when she said that using PED's would only be cheating if caught. She also said she would take an undetectable PED if it would allow her to win the Indy 500.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) wasn't buying it calling her comments "totally irresponsible." USADA CEO Travis Tygart said, "In one interview, she undercut what millions of parents try their best to teach their kids everyday in this country, that winners never cheat and cheaters never win."

Danica Patrick said in an interview with USA Today, "It was a bad joke. There is a lot of sensitivity in our culture about (performance-enhancing drugs). With all the baseball stuff, I've followed it and this is a real problem. It's a shame kids think they have to do this to get ahead. It's very dangerous."

The USADA reaction is a typical knee jerk one. However, we can't have it both ways; we're disappointed when the athletes let us in like Danica did and then we're disappointed when players don't own it like Mark McGwire. If anything, the USADA should use this as a learning opportunity and address the issue at hand: she admitted she would cheat if she knew she wouldn't be caught. Therefore, improve testing and impose stricter penalties such as a one and done policy. If the penalties are so great, the chances of people taking the risks to cheat will diminish substantially.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Danica Patrick Would Use a PED

In a revealing interview with Dan Patrick of Sports Illustrated, Danica Patrick revealed the inner workings of a competitive athlete when it comes to the temptation of using PED's and why they chose to use.

From the interview:

Dan: If you could take a performance-enhancing drug and not get caught, would you do it if it allowed you to win Indy?
Danica: Well, then it's not cheating, is it? If nobody finds out?
Dan: So you would do it?
Danica: Yeah, it would be like finding a gray area. In motorsports we work in the gray areas a lot. You're trying to find where the holes are in the rule

Apparently many athletes were and still are "trying to find where the holes are in the rule book." Her personal morals and ethics are off the charts if she does not consider using PED's cheating, as long as no one finds out. It's easy to see how this is the mindset of the modern athlete, always looking for an edge anyway possible. These athletes always have a justification for their actions when questioned. After all, that's how a majority of competitive athletes got to where they are today, doing whatever it took to get to the top.

Thank you Danica for allowing us into the mindset of the modern athlete and the thought process of deciding whether or not to cheat.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Heyman's Vote on Roiders

Jon Heyman, Hall of Fame (HOF) voter and columnist for SI.com, recently wrote how he would vote for the HOF for several current and former MLB'ers suspected of roiding up and cheating the game.

In his article, he stresses how difficult voting for the HOF is. Do voters simply go by the statistics of a player or by the impact that player had on the team? If one was to go by statistics alone, how does one judge the current crop of players who played during the steroid era? Heyman writes, "These calls won't only be about numbers. There are value judgments to be made about cheating, and possibly about how much the cheating helped particular players."

Heyman admits that some voters will simply eliminate all the cheaters from their ballots while others will take it on a case by case basis. He is the first writer that I have encountered to admit his own culpability in being slow to uncover the widespread use of PED's in baseball. A majority of writers need to own this. It's part of the inherent conflict of interest in being a sportswriter. You need to be "friendly" and close to the players and organizations and do not violate that trust by exposing the sport you cover or writing about it in a negative light. Heyman hypothesizes that some writers might feel tempted to block a majority of these players from the HOF since the writers were slow to cover the truth about their PED use. Voting them into the HOF would be continuing the trend of looking the other way, wink-wink, and implicitly endorsing cheating by using these substances.

Now to analyze Heyman's ballot:

  • Mark McGwire: Didn't vote for him because of suspected PED use led to HOF numbers.
  • Barry Bonds: Yes, he believes he was a HOF'er before he took any PED's.
  • Roger Clemens: Yes, like Bonds, he was a HOF'er before he roided up.
  • Sammy Sosa: No, productivity and expanded size suggest PED use.
  • Rafael Palmeiro: No, failed drug test (Stanozolol) after protesting innocence before Congress.
  • Gary Sheffield: No, ties to BALCO and admitting to intentionally throwing balls away hurt.
  • Mike Piazza: Yes, numbers wise he's there, but increasing suspicions raise some doubts, but Heyman needs more proof.
  • Ivan Rodriguez: Yes, never been caught even though he shrunk dramatically.
  • A-Rod: Yes, Heyman needs more proof of add'l doping even though admitted to PED use.
  • Manny Ramirez: Yes, he was great since the start and never got "big"

Interesting takes on these players by Heyman. In some instances he needs more proof (Piazza, Ivan Rodriguez and A-Rod) while others his visual proof was enough (Sammy Sosa). Yet, visual proof of a shrinking Ivan Rodriguez was not enough for him to pass on voting him in the HOF. Of the three players (Palmerio, Ramirez and A-Rod) that failed a drug test in MLB testing, he has two going to the Hall of Fame (any coincidence that both are current players, possibly his reasoning is self-motivated by generating goodwill down the road when he needs a story).

Unfortunately, the rules for election to the HOF do not specify "character" attributes. Aren't you supposed to be rewarded for doing the right thing and not cheating? Is that the proper message you want displayed in Cooperstown?

It's up to the baseball writers to decide.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Potential All Star Error

MLB appears headed to make a colossal error in judgment. The NL All Star ballot standings were released earlier this week and Manny Ramirez is fourth. The possibility of Manny Ramirez starting the All Star Game is deplorable.

Only in Major League Baseball can a player serving a 50 game suspension for using a banned substance and missing more than half of the regular season games before the All Star Game be rewarded and deemed an All-Star. The starters are voted by the fans, so it appears that the fans do not care if the athletes roid out of their minds. What an excellent message to convey to all the Little Leaguers out there.

What an awful, misguided message and one only MLB could pull off with such aplomb. Here's a simple solution: if a player is caught using a banned substance, he cannot participate in All Star related activities for the next twelve months. Again, use of banned substances should not be rewarded at all. Sending these current mixed messages to the public will shift the onus to parents having to explain why a superstar has to use banned substances in the first place and then why his league considers that type of behavior All Star caliber.

Congratulations MLB, you've done it once again.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Kentucky DE Fails Test, College Career Over

Jeremy Jarmon, who has the third most sacks in Kentucky history, will not be allowed to add to that total following a positive test for a banned substance. The defensive end was tested in February and appealed the positive test result; the NCAA denied his appeal.

Jarmon claimed he inadvertently took a banned substance found in a dietary supplement bought at a nutrition store. After taking the supplement for 15 days, he inquired with the training staff and they advised him to cease taking it.

Jarmon did not identify the substance or take any questions during a press conference announcing the results. He read from a prepared statement that said he was unaware that the supplement contained the banned substance and that he does not need to cheat to get ahead.

The university was very supportive of Jarmon, filing an appeal on his behalf with the Athletic Director, Mitch Barnhart, hoping that the NCAA would make an exception in Jarmon’s case due to “extenuating circumstances.” Barnhart said, “The NCAA rules are the rules that we all live by and they're consistent, based on precedent and we've got to honor this. It may not always feel right, but there is precedent and it is consistent."

Every time one of these stories breaks, there’s always someone else to blame: a teammate, the store clerk, the coaching staff or the training staff. Enough is enough. Take responsibility for yourself. You are on the cusp of entering the big time: the NFL and earning some serious scratch. Make it an unofficial elective to know what you can and cannot put it your body. If you are not sure, ASK. As that advertising campaign said, there’s sure and then there’s not exactly. The risks are too great to be anything other than sure.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Ethicist’s take on Manny Ramirez

An interesting piece popped up in the news regarding right and wrong and the use of performance enhancing drugs in sports. The article came from Randy Cohen’s piece in The New York Times Moral of the Story column, The Ethicist’s take on the news, where he asks the question whether we are right to “condemn such players (as a positive Manny Ramirez) as unethical?”

Cohen writes that the boost that athletes receive from PED’s is significant, but limited. He cites the change in the single season home run record from Babe Ruth’s 60 (Roger Maris actually had the record at 61 before Mark McGwire broke it with 70 prior to Bonds) to Barry Bonds’ 73 and specifically mentions that the record didn’t jump to 500. 60 to 73 is a 22% increase; 60 to 500 would be a 733% increase. Roger Maris surpassed Ruth's home run record by one home run, not thirteen.  Let’s keep this argument in reality.

Cohen gives many of the same arguments that baseball elders gave in explaining how aging sluggers were hitting more home runs: modern training programs, better nutrition, smaller ballparks. Even though steroids were prohibited from baseball in the early 90’s, there was no mandatory testing in place. To further his change in technology and sports, Cohen cites cycling illustrating how the bikes have transformed from being made out of the heavier steel to carbon fiber. The sport of cycling has one of the biggest doping cultures. Another example Cohen cites is Tiger Woods’ Lasik surgery to improve his vision to 20/15, better than normal. In both examples, bike makeups and eye surgery, there is nothing in the rules of the respective sport that says a bike needs to be made of a certain material or your vision cannot be altered. Hence, these athletes are not doing anything wrong.

Cohen suggests that rather than increase penalties for bad decisions, cast the image as one of workplace safety. “Baseball authorities must prohibit actions that are unduly dangerous, whether taking drugs or playing after a concussion, or that mar the beauty of the game, not because such things are unethical but because they are unwise.” Why is taking drugs unwise for ballplayers? Using PED’s in the first place is what led these players to get to the big show, get the big money contracts and get that extension. The only remedy that will make it unwise to cheat and use PED’s is to implement an immediate lifetime ban from the sport and a requirement that the cheat would need to return all monies earned. Since the “honor code” didn’t work too well before, when the player’s money and right to earn a living are on the line, they will learn quickly how unwise it is to take the spike and will call MLB to confirm that the supplement that they picked up from GNC is legit.

Friday, May 22, 2009

NASCAR Drug Suspension Fallout

The Jeremy Mayfield v. NASCAR battle continues.

Mayfield was suspended May 9th for failing a random drug test. Neither NASCAR nor Mayfield’s attorney, Bill Diehl, identified the substance. Diehl hinted that legal action might follow regarding the validity of the drug tests.

Mayfield and NASCAR have two different explanations for the positive test which NASCAR considers a “serious violation” of their substance abuse policy which was categorized as a performance enhancer or a recreational drug. A person familiar with the results said Mayfield did not test positive for performance enhancer.

Mayfield claims the positive test stems from a mixture of a prescription drug with over-the-counter allergy medication Claritin-D. Dr. David Black, administrator of NASCAR's drug testing program and CEO of Aegis Sciences Corp., has repeatedly rejected that explanation.

Mayfield’s best course of action is to own it and move on. Make amends, get the proper help he needs and then get back out on the track. If anything, a stint in drug rehab would make him more appealing to NASCAR fans that his current persona. The longer everyone lets this substance remain a mystery, the more people speculate, further harming Mayfield’s reputation.

It’s not like the driver had a lot going for him recently. Mayfield, who turns 40 next week, has been out of steady work since his 2006 firing from Evernham Motorsports and self financed the creation of Mayfield Motorsports this season. This latest development could spell the end of Mayfield Motorsports.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Radomski Suspected Piazza Roided

Kirk Radomski does not like Mike Piazza. 

That said, according to his book, Bases Loaded, Radomski was asked by Mitchell investigators what he knew about Piazza.  Radomski has no first hand information whether Piazza used roids, HGH or other PED's.  Radomski writes that "Piazza is one guy I would have been happy to give up."

Radomski's opinion in analyzing Piazza's body visually was that he looked like someone who was roiding.  Again, he has no firsthand knoeledge, just stating his opinion.  After the fallout from Piazza's return to New York to open Citi Field and relectuance to address the media, Radomski's opinion could very well be spot on.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

FINA Bans Some Swimsuits

In the debate as to whether swimsuits are performance enhancing, a decision has been made and the answer is...yes.

FINA, the international swimming federation, has moved to reject 146 types of the high-tech suits. 136 of the suits have been offered the option of modifications within 30 days. This timeline would accommodate the world swimming championships in Rome that begin July 19th.

Grant Stoelwinder, a leading swim coach from Australia, said many swimmers were fooling themselves thinking their abilities were improving when it was due to the technology of the suits. He said minor benefits were achieved through added buoyancy, reduced surface drag or compressing a swimmer’s body, into a streamlined and efficient position.

One company that came out relatively unscathed from this development was Speedo and their top swimmer, Michael Phelps who wears one of their LZR swimsuits. Fifteen versions of the LZR line were approved by FINA.

Aaron Peirsol beat Phelps in the 100 meter backstroke this past Saturday, but was wearing a suit that has now been banned by FINA. We'll see who performs better when the two meet next on a level playing field.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bodybuilders Flee Testers Prompting Event Cancellation

Bodybuilding did it again.

With the Belgian bodybuilding championships taking place in Netherlands this year due to several prior doping busts in Belgium, the bodybuilders thought they were safe. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Doping official Hans Cooman and two other officials obtained the proper paperwork to test in the Netherlands. When they identified themselves all 20 bodybuilders left the event rather than submit to doping tests.

Last year there were 22 failures out of 29 tests, a 75% failure rate. Failures were for either steroids or refusing to take a test.

The strangest thing about this story is not that all competitors fled the scene once doping officials arrived, but that there were a few hundred fans that were going to watch the competition. Fans watch bodybuilding competitions...that's not at all weird.

It's one thing that a body builder's family and friends will attend, but people without a connection attending under their own free will, that's just not right. Watching oiled up men in banana hammocks and women in bikinis who could take out a DII football team is not appealing to me...and you want me to pay to see this freak show? No word on whether those in attendance got refunds.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Oxymoron Alert: Cyclists Protest Over Safety

File under: Are you freaking kidding me (AYFKM)?

After Pedro Horrillo suffered near fatal injuries from crashing into a ravine during stage 8 in the Giro d’Italia, the cyclists still competing were understandably on edge. When the cyclists saw the conditions for the 9th stage, they decided to not race at full speed and then most quit entirely when race leader, Danilo Di Luca, with Lance Amstrong by his side, addressed the crowd as to why they were not racing that stage due to safety concerns. All riders were given the same time for the stage per an agreement reached between race officials even though some riders went on to finish the 9th stage in a move that angered some of the protesting cyclists.

Di Luca said, "We’re sorry, but the course is too dangerous. We don’t want to risk our health. The circuit is not safe enough. We hope the fans understand.”

Apparently some of the fans didn't understand, prompting racer Michael Rogers to respond to the criticism on his Twitter page with the following post:
"Maybe on TV it didn’t look dangerous but believe me, IT WAS! No one wants to see a repeat of yesterday’s disaster with Horrillo. Funny that everyone is blaming the riders for our protest today. No one mentions the parked cars on the circuit, the oncoming traffic.”

I can't believe the gall of these cyclists. They have a conscience...now? They now "don't want to risk their health?" This is one big failed marketing stunt because after all the blood doping and testosterone injecting cyclists out there, are now concerned about their own health and safety is laughable. These guys are willing to take the spike to get on Tour and in the most elite races, but then are going to invoke moral standards on what is considered safe? Every year, there is some doping scandal that rocks the sport, so where is the unity in concern over risking their health then?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Roid Question Not Asked

In Kirk Radomski's book, Bases Loaded, Radomski breaks down the typical list of questions that potential customers would ask regarding roids and HGH such as:

  • How frequently should I be taking this stuff?
  • Is there anything I can do that would help more?
  • How much weight am I going to put on?
  • When I come off am I going to lose everything?

The question that no one asked Radomiski during his time supplying PED's to athletes was, "Is it safe?" None of these athletes cared about their health, they just wanted results and PED's to help them either get to the show or get that one last contract that would set them up for life...long term health be damned.

When you've spent your entire life playing ball, you only know one thing...that's playing ball. For some players, they did whatever it took to make the show or stay on the field. Whether it was right or wrong, is something only they can answer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joe Torre: Baseball Man Until the End

Joe Torre is in the middle of another steroid blowup. This time involving his star player in Los Angeles, Manny Ramirez, who was suspended for 50 games last week. Steroids and a Torre press conference aren't new, since he was by Jason Giambi's side during Giambi's New York PED "apology." As before, Torre knows nothing of roids in baseball. Odd, he seems to be the only one who thinks that way. The incredible and truly unbelievable coincidence is that Torre never suspected that anyone was using roids on any of his teams, even though 8 members of his 2000 World Series Yankee team were named in the Mitchell Report.

In numerous appearances promoting his book that he "co-wrote" with Tom Verducci, The Yankee Years, Torre claimed he didn't know that any of his Yankee players were roiding out of their minds. However, David Cone, in Torre's book said that most players knew that some players were using PED's, especially the ones working with trainer Brian McNamee. That's an odd discrepancy and one a reader would like addressed, but it never happened.

Further making Torre's naiveté on this issue the more puzzling is the fact that he was a former player. He earned the MVP award at the age of 30 and then saw his statistics take a sharp decline. How could some of the players he manged get better as they aged (Ramirez and Roger Clemens) while he did not? His career stats are below:

In his latest roid episode, in a Sports Illustrated article Torre said, "There's a human being (Ramirez) there I'm concerned about." Are you kidding me? Torre concerned about a human being? Where was the concern for his players who were roiding out of their minds back in the day? How about taking a stand and telling his players to stop using? Reminding his players that PED's are harmful to your bodies long term.

The reason Torre never asked questions or took a stand looking out for the "human beings" in his clubhouse is because he likes baseball. He likes managing. He wants to continue making millions of dollars (reportedly his deal with the Dodgers was $13 million for three years). If he were to question his players, make them stop using PED's, his team would lose games, potentially costing Joe Torre his job and millions of dollars.

A baseball man through and through...a roll model for the kids, that's a different question.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Clemens Comes Out Throwing Heat in Response to Book

Another Roger Clemens book hits the shelves today, American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime, by The New York Daily News investigative team of Teri Thompson, Michael O'Keeffe, Nathaniel Vinton and Christian Red and Clemens was ready for it.

He made his first public comments since his interview on “60 Minutes” today on the “Mike and Mike” ESPN radio show. He decided to speak out since he “and Deb” were heading out of the country later this week and wanted to address these latest allegations rather than appear that he fled the country. During the interview, Clemens maintained his position that he never took PED’s, that friend Andy Pettite “misremembered” their conversation and he does not know why Brian McNamme would tell the truth about Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch, but lie about him.

Clemens is a pro’s pro, referring to each host by their nickname: Greenie and Golie (rather than Golic). When asked about DNA evidence, Clemens said he had provided a sample to investigators but the McNamee syringes would not link him to PED’s. Clemens said, "It's impossible because he's never given me any."

He maintained his innocence and said that he has been outspoken in his crusade against PED’s when he speaks to kids and other players. Clemens was working with new advisers on how to get his message out to the public. The flaw of this appearance came when he said it would be "suicidal" for him to use PED's because of the family history of heart conditions, specifically mentioning his brother and step father. How his step father's genetic makeup would impact him is tragically laughable. Yet, this appearance went over better than his appearance on Capitol Hill, but what Mike & Mike failed to ask him was how did his performance increase, specifically gain mph in his fastball as he aged? This does not happen and is not natural. Once testing was put in place, the days of the productive aging slugger and pitcher seem to be fading fast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The NBA & PED's

One sport that is under the radar regarding PED's is pro basketball. Most of the NBA drug issues relate to marijuana and are shrugged off by most of the media. The most serious and recent drug offense occurred several years ago and involved a player who is currently playing in the postseason. The charismatic Chris "Birdman" Andersen of the Denver Nuggets served a two-year ban for violating the league's anti-drug policy, using a "drug of abuse." Marijuana does not fall under this category.

In Kirk Radomski's book about how he became the central figure in the Mitchell Report, Bases Loaded, he writes that he supplied PED's to a NBA player for several years. The player told Radomski that other players were using as well. Specifically, he provided anabolic steroids. He does not name the player.

I'm surprised Radomski supplied anabolic steroids rather than HGH. After learning about all the benefits of HGH, I'm shocked more NBA players aren't using it to recover from injuries. After all, that was the MLB player's association repeated line when all the names came regarding the Mitchell Report: "I only used HGH and it was only to help my teammates. I used it to recover from an injury and get back on the field quicker." It's a great line, sounds noble, but if it was a legit form of recovery, it wouldn't be banned by the World Anti-Doping Authority. It's still looking to get an edge that other competitors don't have.

Since there's no test, who is to say that everyone or most injured NBA players aren't using HGH? In baseball, it's safe to assume that players are still using and will continue to use HGH until there is a test or a stiffer penalties, but that will be the day.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Manny Ramírez Fallout

Yesterday it was announced that Manny Ramírez failed a drug test and was suspended 50 games by MLB. How this information trickled out was truly amazing.

It was first reported that he was suspended for violating the drug policy, but it wasn't a steroid. Ramírez issued a statement where he placed the blame on his doctor where he prescribed a medication that was banned per the drug policy. Several hours later, it was revealed to be a sexual enhancement medication. Only later, the drug was revealed to be a woman's fertility medication, human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG. The details of the drug were provided anonymously to The Boston Globe, yet there seems to be no controversy regarding the Globe's use of anonymous sources in this case opposite the backlash Selena Roberts received in her latest book.

HCG is a drug that roid heads sometimes ingest to regulate their natural testosterone levels after coming off a roid cycle. This was not a positive development for Manny Ramírez. Making matters worse, Ramírez rather than owning the transgression and explaining himself went into hiding leaving manager Joe Torre to address the media. Torre is familiar with this type of press conference since he had a similar one in New York with Jason Giambi.

Per The Boston Globe, Ramírez failed a drug test twice before MLB took action. One would think that any failed test would result in an immediate 50 game suspension. Since he failed two tests, shouldn't that count as two failed tests and be suspended for 100 games? Was he contacted after the first failed test? There are many questions after reading this article.

The fallout isn't confined the West Coast. Boston, Ramírez's former team, has remained quiet on the latest developments. It's interesting to look at some statistics of Ramírez and Boston teammate David Ortiz to see how their performance has progressed over the years.

Below are Manny Ramírez's career statistics through last year. Interesting to note is the number of AB's per HR. Once he was traded to the Dodgers last year and playing for a contract, he averaged a HR every 11.0 AB's, his best pace ever, at the age of 36. The only other time he averaged a HR less than every 12 AB's was in 1999 and 2000 when he was 27 - 28 with the Clevland Indians. His power numbers surged in 1998; the same year that McGwire and Sosa were chasing the home run record. Could doping suspicions be one reason why not many teams were seriously considering offering Ramirez a contract?

Here are David Ortiz's career statistics. Looking at the same metric, number of AB's per HR, it is evident that his power only really emerged once he joined forces with Manny Ramirez in Boston in 2003. Prior to joining the Red Sox, he never hit more than 20 HR's and his best average number of AB's per HR was 16.8. After joining Manny and the Red Sox, Big Pappi became Big Pappi in 2006 when he hit 54 HR's and averaged a HR every 10.3 AB's that season. After the 2005 season, he signed an extension with the team. His production has started to diminish from that 2006 season.
Manny being Manny has left bodies in his wake as others are left to answer questions for how we find ourselves in this position. The vague answers will not satisfy anybody.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Continued Vindication for Jose Canseco

New York Times best selling author Jose Canseco's second effort, Vindicated, didn't have the same impact as his first, but id did offer some additional insight into the world of PED's in baseball.

Today's big story that Manny Ramirez tested positive for a banned substance and will serve a 50 game suspension starting today further leads credence to Canseco's claims. I'm waiting on additional information before commenting on the Manny situation. Other teams are already looking to take advantage of this development. Per Barry Zito's twitter page: "Manny's gone for 50 games. time for the Giants to capitalize."

In Vindicated, Canseco explains why players turned to PED's during a speech he gave at the University of Florida.
"Why then do athletes choose to expose themselves to the risks and
uncertainties? I wish the answer was simple. In most cases the
answer is surprisingly not for the fame and the money. While some may
take them hoping to get an advantage, the plain answer is that most do it
just to survive their sport."
That explanation is summed up later when Canseco describes the options that some players felt: roid up and have a job or you can be clean and toil around in the minors. What would you do in that position?

In describing his own personal use with PED's, Canseco writes, "I had been taught to strive for greatness, and I certainly did, but maybe wanting to be the best, at any cost, wasn't the smartest approach. That phrase is what kills you: at any cost. You have to ask yourself if the price is going to be too high."

Canseco eventually comes to some type of grips with his past decisions admitting that roiding up was a shortcut, but he states that he had to work just as hard to develop his body and still make contact with the ball. He also mentions that roids led to a "me focus" rather than team focus. Some players were more concerned about getting on Sportscenter then on advancing the runner or helping the team win the game.

I don't really buy the argument that Canseco took a shortcut, but wasn't "cheating" since others were doing it. Also, the notion that a player still needs to hit the ball is true, but if you're roided out of your mind, you have an unfair advantage over a clean player. Canseco should be applauded for coming forward and shedding light to baseball's dark secret and not be treated as the pariah he is often portrayed as.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Why All the Hate for Selena Roberts?

With yesterday’s release of Selena Roberts’ book on Alex Rodriguez, "A-Rod: The Many Lives of Alex Rodriguez", the reaction has been fierce and for the most part, one-sided: backlash towards Roberts from the media and others in baseball.

New York Yankee manager Joe Girardi questioned why the book was even written in the first place this past Sunday. Girardi said, “From the excerpts I have read, I have heard that there are other negative things about his lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that what we do off the field is our personal life.”

Monday morning in a promo for the book, Roberts appeared on the Today show and was interviewed by Matt Lauer. Rather than discuss the book’s findings, Lauer attacked Roberts for her reliance on anonymous sources. During the Mitchell investigation into PED’s in baseball only one active player cooperated with the investigation. Given this history and that there really is a “code” in the locker room, it’s not at all surprising that there are many anonymous sources in the book. When she uncovers information and goes to verify that information, people respect and understand the “code” and do not want to “rat” out a former teammate so they go off the record.
Let's be honest with the uproar over Selena Roberts book. It's because it's written by an outsider, a woman and someone who is not a favored reporter by the sport. Would Tom Verducci be getting roasted like Selena Roberts? No. Would Jayson Stark or Buster Olney get any heat - no because they wouldn’t write an investigative book like this and violate the "code." Those two ESPN “personalities” sat by and said all the performances we saw during the roid era were natural. Why? One reason is that they work for an outlet that televises the sport and can't cause any controversy that would possibly hurt their employer's ratings.

So now the sport and the hard liners are doing what they do best: unifying a front and supporting a liar and a cheater while questioning a reporter and her methods. Kill the messenger and ignore the message.

Eventually the tide will turn. Fans will wake up and realize that a fraud and a liar is the highest earner in the sport and will stop going to the games, buying jerseys and ultimately, the owners will have no choice but to lower wages, hurting all the players who remained silent during this era.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Long Shot Wins Derby - Too Good to Be True?

50 to 1 long shot, Mine That Bird pulled off a giant upset yesterday at Churchill Downs in the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby.

Costing $9,500 and coming from dead last to win the race by 6 and 3/4 lengths is an incredible story....possibly an unbelievable one. When pre race favorite, I Want Revenge, trained by now suspended Jeff Mullins, pulled out of the race earlier in the day, Friesan Fire then became the favorite. However, that horse would finish second to last. How could the so-called experts be so wrong?

Earlier in the week, The New York Times inquired with the 20 owners what medications, if any, their horses were using. Only three owners responded. One reason given for not sharing their veterinary records was to protect the horse's privacy. 15% of the owners responded - this after a year in which the curtain was removed from the general public's eyes with the secrets of horse racing: steroids, legal, yet morally questionable, injections and a Congressional hearing. After all that, one would expect more transparency. Apparently, the owners in this year's Derby did not get that memo.

Of course the owners of Mine That Bird did not disclose any information to the NYT. Is this story too good to be true or the fairy tale ending the sport needed to get over the death of Eight Belles?

Friday, May 1, 2009

A-Rod Visual Evidence: Man Boobs

According to The New York Daily News, the visual evidence that led Yankee teammates to suspect A-Rod was still using PED's were his large breasts, aka "man boobs". Males develop large breasts as a result of steroid use when the body increases production of female hormones to offset the increase in testosterone. This medical condition is called gynecomastia.

A-Rod was not the only Yankee great who suffered from the condition. Roger Clemens did also. The Daily News investigative team writing a book on Clemens, American Icon: The Fall of Roger Clemens and the Rise of Steroids in America's Pastime, write that Clemens must have been embarrassed by his condition based on his grooming patterns.

Roger Clemens had man boobs, and he must have been embarrassed because he was often the first Yankee out of the shower and the first to get dressed after the game.
The article points to A-Rod's visual evidence when he went to the park as the shirtless park tanner that the general public picked up on.  If this condition is prevalent in the locker room than perhaps George Costanza's father was on to something when he was designing the "bro" and the "manissiere".

Thursday, April 30, 2009

More A-Rod Roid Allegations

According to The New York Daily News, Selena Roberts’ upcoming book, A-Rod, will add to the speculation surrounding Alex Rodriguez and his suspected use of PED’s. Besides being characterized as a needy personality and having his ego stroked constantly, characterizations that were confirmed in Joe Torre’s book, The Yankee Years, Roberts reports that A-Rod was using back in high school and with the Yankees. Previously, A-Rod has admitted to using PED’s, but only prior to joining the Yankees.

The high school allegation comes from a former teammate. The teammate also said that the coach knew A-Rod was using. The coach denied the allegation. So much for the “baseball code:” what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. This former teammate might have an ax to grind or might simply be jealous…or he could be telling the truth. We’ll need to wait until the book comes out to form an objective opinion on the validity of this information.

The Yankee allegation is a bombshell since his pr people determined that it’s best to make it appear that his NY legacy and tenure has been clean when he apologized in February. Allegedly, that is not the case. The Yankee information, like the high school allegation, also comes from unnamed sources. Two unnamed teammates based their opinions based on visual side effects. The report does not say what those side effects were.  Also according to the report, another unnamed major leaguer says he saw A-Rod and former Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown with HGH back in 2004.

Now I’m intrigued; anyone suffering from back acne will now accused of using PED’s. Previously, reporters didn’t ask athletes what might have caused that skin condition or other visual side effects. Now, there might be a legitimate reason to start and be objective rather than be the athlete’s friend.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Houston: Gateway to Easy Roids?

Another interesting tidbit in Jeff Pearlman’s Roger Clemens book, “The Rocket That Fell To Earth” is the notion that playing in Houston allowed members of the Astros easy access to PED’s.

Per Pearlman:
The Astros were known throughout the league to have lots of players benefiting from performance enhancers. “It was a joke,” says one opponent. “All you had to do was look at them. It was beyond obvious.” From the ballplayer’s standpoint, the beauty of Houston was the close proximity to Mexico, where most of the steroids originated. With its border only 353 miles from Houston, Mexico served as a 24-hour CVS where $50 was accepted in lieu of a prescription.

Pearlman goes on to question the plausibility of a 42 year old man (Clemens) being able to throw 96 mph while working out four to five hours a day. Other media members had commented on grooming patterns of players as a tip off to whether a person used PED's. One potential side effect of taking PED’s is altering the facial structure and as a result some players felt the need to grow beards and goatees.

Previously, other media members had speculated on Astro Jeff Bagwell. Looking at his historical statistics, Bagwell averaged a home run for every 17.4 at bats. At his peak in the 1994 season, Bagwell hit a home run every 10.3 at bats during the 110 games played. What’s odd about that stat is that two years prior, when he played in 162 games, Bagwell hit a home run every 32.6 at bats. His last season was 2005, two years after drug testing was put in place by MLB. After survey testing occurred in 2003 without any punishment or threat of being identified, he had his last productive season playing in 160 games and hitting 39 home runs (an average of one HR per 15.5 AB). In 2004, his numbers fell off dramatically, playing in 156 games and hitting 27 home runs (an average of one HR per 21.2 AB). This rate was one Bagwell had not seen since his third year in the majors when he averaged a HR for every 26.8 AB.

Houston, we have lift off.  Can this production be explained by Pearlman’s explanation? It’s for the reader to decide.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

French Clear Armstrong for Tour

The French antidoping agency has cleared Lance Armstrong of any wrongdoing stemming from a rules violation during a doping test last month. This decision is a stark contrast after comments stating that there was “a very high likelihood” that Armstrong would be barred from the Tour de France.

The agency said it “decided to take into consideration the written explanations of the athlete” that came in a letter from Armstrong dated April 16.
Unfortunately the statement did not elaborate on why the agency made the decision, but did reiterate that Armstrong’s urine and blood samples from that drug test came back without abnormalities. The agency said that his hair sample, also taken that day, has not been tested.

The drug test in question occurred on March 17th. The tester arrived and Armstrong’s assistant checked for the tester’s credentials. Armstrong left the tester for 20 minutes to take a shower even though the tester warned Armstrong that he must be in view of him the entire time of the test.

Armstrong commented on the latest development from Aspen, CO, where he has been training, via his Twitter page: “Just got the word from the French agency AFLD on the shower gate incident. Case closed, no penalty, all samples clean. Onward.”

The self described “most tested athlete” needs to be smarter than this....and accurate. When any tester shows up, don’t leave their sight for a prolonged amount of time and then provide samples. For someone who claims to be transparent, he is not acting in a transparent manner. Also, not all samples were clean since the hair sample hasn't been tested yet.  The hair sample test results will put this incident all to rest…whenever that takes place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Polo Horses Deaths Caused By Supplement

The mysterious deaths of 21 polo horses are starting to unravel. The horses all received injections of a banned vitamin supplement used to fight off exhaustion and polo team members believe a tainted dose led to the deaths. There were five horses that did not receive injections and are fine.

The captain of the Lechuza Caracas polo team, Juan Martin Nero, told the Argentine newspaper La Nación, that all of the horses received injections of Biodyl before getting sick and dying.

"We don't have any doubts about the origin of the problem," Nero said. "There were five horses that weren't given the vitamin and they are the only ones that are fine."

Biodyl is a French-made supplement and is banned by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its sale or use in the United States is generally illegal, an FDA spokeswoman said. Selenium is a substance in Biodyl and can be toxic in large quantities.  B12 is also in Biodyl.

"Compounded" generic versions of the supplement may sometimes be bought with a prescription, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey said. Compounding is the process of creating the supplement from basic ingredients. There is a greater likelihood of a tainted supplement through compounding then purchasing the commercial product.

"Compounding is allowed under very specific circumstances, but the purpose of compounding is to provide for an individual animal," DeLancey said. "You can't compound things just to sit on the shelf."

The horses had been injected with a compounded version produced on order by a pharmacy.

"For us, the suspicions are that there was something bad in the laboratory," Nero told La Nación. "They're common vitamins that aren't given to improve performance but rather to help them recover from exhaustion."

Nero is putting all the blame on the lab. Yet, his team hasn’t provided any samples of what was given to the horses on game day to investigators. Nor has the team’s veterinarian been available for comment. If there is nothing to hide, be forthcoming and transparent. Others in the polo community are questioning why vitamins were even administered on game day.

Neil Hirsch, who co-owns the Bridgehampton Polo Club on New York's Long Island, said, "Everybody gives their polo horses vitamins, but they're given on a Monday or Tuesday when no one's playing. You just don't give them the day of a match."

The death of these horses is tragic. Hiring a pharmacy to mix their own drugs because you can't obtain it legally here? Is the drug really that essential to your operation...it seems like it and I would consider it a PED if you are contracting out the manufacturing of it and then administering it on game day. An injection to fight exhaustion before the match when others are questioning that practice raises concerns about animal cruelty. Are the horses being overworked leading to exhaustion? Is the only way to compete in that sport with drugs? If so, why aren’t other teams doing so? Mr. Hirsch raises a valid point in stating that vitamins are given early in the week, when no one is playing, their bodies can fully benefit from the medicine, not hours before competition.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rocket Fuel in the Summer '01

Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth," earning his sixth Cy Young award with a 20-3 record while topping out at 98 mph at the age of 38 wasn't that spectacular when put in its proper context.

Per Pearlman, the Rocket was fueled by anabolic steroids. He was alternating between Sustanon 250 and Deca-Durabolin. In '01, the Rocket received these types of boosts a dozen or so times that helped reverse time and add extra mph to his fastball. All of these injections in '01 took place inside the Rocket's apartment with the exception of one at Yankee Stadium before the final game of a July home stand. Unfortunately, the Rocket developed a blood stain that had oozed through his slacks after he changed into street clothes. A teammate, Mike Stanton, noticed.

Per Pearlman:

Clemens felt compelled to answer when Stanton quietly asked whether he had
turned to drugs.
"Hey, man," Clemens replied, " whatever I can do to get
an edge."
If that really occurred as reported, that is pretty remarkable, but not surprising. After all, "whatever I can do to get an edge" was the mindset that many of the guys had back then to compete at the highest level or just to get to the big leagues. I suspect that mindset is still prevalent today, but with drug testing in place, players will be a little more careful in how they go about obtaining that edge.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trainer of Derby Favorite Suspended

Kentucky Derby favorite, I Want Revenge, will have the services of trainer, Jeff Mullins. Mullins was suspended for seven days and fined $2,500 yesterday by the New York State Racing and Wagering Board. The suspension will start May 3rd; the day after the Kentucky Derby...very convenient. Apparently, the timing of the suspension was negotiated since Mullins agreed he would not appeal the decision.

Mullins was seen injecting Gato Go Win with a cough remedy substance in the detention barn before the $200,000 Bay Shore race. Giving any medication to a horse while waiting in the detention barn is against the New York racing rules.

The suspension timing is odd, but there was no way a Derby favorite would be without the services of its trainer leading up to the first leg of the Triple Crown. Mullins misstep was injecting a horse with a cough remedy several hours before a race. If a horse is suffering from a cough, should it even be racing? Is that animal cruelty? Horse racing needs to step their game up in protecting the animals, but like other sports, the money is too great and everyone is benefiting...everyone except the horses.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cyclist Retires After Another Positive Test

Tyler Hamilton, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist and once one of Lance Armstrong’s top lieutenants on the US Postal Service team, announced his retirement from cycling after testing positive for a banned substance. Hamilton served a two year ban after testing positive for blood doping in 2004 at the Vuelta a Espana. A second positive test at the minimum is an 8 year ban and can lead to a lifetime ban from the sport. Hamilton said his retirement had nothing to do with his failed test.

Hamilton tested positive on February 9th for the substance DHEA, an over the counter dietary supplement that is on WADA’s banned list. He took the substance before the Tour of California to fight symptoms of depression. Per The New York Times, “DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, converts to a steroid in the bloodstream and its benefits, including as a muscle-builder and antidepressant, are widely debated.”

Hamilton said, “Was it stupid? Absolutely yes. Was I wrong? Absolutely yes. But the people who suffer from depression know that sometimes you make drastic decisions to make yourself feel better. Yes, I took a substance that was on the banned list for my mental health. Did I take it for performance enhancement? Absolutely not.”

Some background regarding Hamilton’s first positive in 2004. Hamilton claimed innocence and denied that he transferred blood from another person, boosting his red blood cells and his endurance. Hamilton’s appeal to the highest court of international athletics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport, was unsuccessful and when he returned to the sport in 2007 his name was linked to a big blood-doping ring in Spain. The investigation into that ring is ongoing.

Hamilton has said winning the gold medal at the ’04 Olympics was one of the greatest achievements of his career. A month after his gold medal victory, he was accused of doping. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) deemed Hamilton’s initial blood sample from the Games positive for blood doping. However, the IOC could not strip him of his gold medal because Hamilton’s backup blood sample had been frozen leaving too few red blood cells to analyze.

Cycling has some drama, what else is new. Suffering from clinical depression or not, there is a banned list for a reason. All competitors in the sport know the consequences if they are caught using a banned substance. I applaud Hamilton seeking treatment for his illness, but if he wanted to compete into his 40’s, he should have done the right thing and met with a coach or doctor and pursued treatment that would have allowed him to continue to compete professionally. Hamilton had too many shady dealings in the past to know this was going to blow up in his face. I take him at his word: this last positive test had absolutely nothing to do with his retirement.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Is There a Double Standard in Determining "Cruelty" for Horses?

Last Friday, New York thoroughbred breeder and owner Ernie Paragallo was charged with 22 counts of animal cruelty for neglecting the horses on his farm. Each count carries up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. More charges could be on the way.

Paragallo’s Center Brook Farm in Climax, NY has been taken over by the State Police and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals after more than 170 neglected horses were found on the property. The New York Racing Association has informed Paragallo that he will no longer be welcome at their racetracks nor allowed to transfer his operation to family members or current employees.

This is a tragic story. The good news is that Paragallo's negligence on the farm was caught and is being remedied.

I want to explore the issue of animal cruelty from the sense of a breeder and owner using steroids to make his horses look more fit and thus more valuable. Should this be considered animal cruelty? The animal has no say in the matter. Can a certain minimum level of injections be considered "healthy" and not "deceitful?" If so, at what point and who would make that determination? At the end of the day, why would an animal need an injection in the first place?

I agree not feeding an animal is cruel. I consider injecting an animal with non essential substances that shortens its life cruel. Do you?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Good vs. Bad Guys in the Roid Court of Public Opinion

In the roid court of public opinion there are good guys and bad guys. Some guys seem to get a free pass while others can't seem to talk about anything but roids. Why the discrepancy?

The bad guys include Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Floyd Landis. The good guys include Jason Giambi, Lance Armstrong and now apparently Mike Piazza.

I have fallen victim to my own bias. Whether or not I liked a guy rather than looking at the facts clouded my judgement in the past. A prime example was Mike Piazza after the allegations raised in Jeff Pearlman's book on Roger Clemens, "The Rocket That Fell To Earth.".

Piazza is beloved in New York. He was a part of closing down Shea Stadium and opening Citi Field. More importantly, he was a part of the post 9/11 healing process. In New York's first game after the tragedy, Piazza hit a monster home run starting a Mets rally. I don't recall if the Mets won the game, but I remember the significance of that game and the HR and how it made me feel. Could one man and a home run lift the spirits of a grieving city...hell yeah. It was an unreal moment for a baseball fan in New York and one that earned Piazza tremendous goodwill in the community...even amongst Yankee fans.

Awhile back, someone raised doubts about whether Piazza played clean. Back then, I was flabbergasted. I had Piazza's back. At the time, I was telling people the overwhelming evidence is out there against Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi. This was during the height of "Game of Shadows." There was nothing at the time to raise any doubts over Piazza. Yet, there were whispers.

Now one can openly ask questions and look at the actual data. How does an unheralded prospect get drafted in the 62nd round as a favor by a family friend, Tommy Lasorda, and then go on to be the greatest hitting catcher in major league history. Could everyone have missed the boat on this talent?

When one looks at the numbers, it's even more striking. After his first 470 minor league at bats (AB) over two seasons, Piazza had 14 home runs (HR), an average of one HR per every 33.6 AB. When he moved on to Bakersfield, CA he reduced that number in half to 15.5 AB. Throughout his minor league career, he had 1,390 AB's and 66 HR's for an average of a HR every 21.1 AB.

Once he made the leap to the majors and faced better pitching, he averaged a HR every 14.7 AB from 1992 - 2002. When MLB instituted the first form of steroid testing with survey testing in 2003, Piazza's average HR per AB plummeted for the remainder of his career to a HR every 22.4 AB. Coincidence, old age, injuries and / or wear and tear from catching all these years...you be the judge.