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 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 be the judge.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Piazza Avoids Media After Citi Field Opening

Last night the New York Mets broke in Citi Field with a first pitch from Tom Seaver to Mike Piazza. It was Piazza and Seaver who left arm and arm to close Shea last fall. After the ceremonial first pitch, Seaver went up to the press box addressing the media while Piazza headed for the exits.

Piazza was escorted by security from the field to the stadium tunnel and avoided most queries from the media with the exception of two stadium related questions.

Piazza’s reluctance to engage with the media could be explained by the allegations of steroid use in Jeff Pearlman's Roger Clemens book, “The Rocket That Fell to Earth.” Pearlman writes that Piazza confided to unidentified reporters during his career that he had used PED's. Piazza has declined several requests for comment since the book's publication.

According to the the Mets’ vice president for media relations, Jay Horwitz, there is a simple explanation. “He wasn’t looking for any attention. He said, ‘I’m a private person now, I have a family, I’m raising my kids, my wife’s having a baby and I want to stay in the background.’ ”

If Piazza wasn't looking for any attention, he shouldn't have been a part of the opening of a new ballpark. The incredible thing with Piazza is no one seems to care (except for the media and a small minority of people) whether he cheated. Being a "private person now" and "wanting to stay in the background" sounds very similar to someone who "wasn't here to talk about the past." What do we think about that guy these days...

MLB Opening Day Analysis: 2009 vs. 2002

Many of the old school baseball honks, still in denial of the widespread use of PED’s earlier this decade, would like to see some of this analysis.

Opening day home runs were up 18% in 2009 compared to 2002 while the number of strikeouts decreased 4%. The baseball establishment would likely point to this HR data as evidence that the players were not roiding out of their minds back in ’02. I beg to differ. The 15 games that made up opening day 2009 consisted of 40 home runs compared to 34 in 2002. The game with the most HR’s in ’09 was the Colorado v. Arizona game with 8 while in ‘02, the game with the most home runs was Minnesota and Kansas City with 5. Interesting to note that 47% of all opening games played in ’02 had at least three home runs hit compared with 40% in ’09. A contributing factor to increased home runs is the 7 new ballparks since 2002. The trend in new ballparks has been smaller, hitter-friendly parks where fans can see more home runs.

The baseball establishment would not like to see the decline in strikeouts. In 2002, there were 202 strikeouts in the 15 opening day games. In 2009, that total decreased to 193. In ’02, there were two games that had 20 strikeouts; in ’09, the highest strikeout total was 17. The lowest K total in ’09 was 6 compared to 9 in ’02. This data would lead one to conclude that PED’s benefited pitchers more than hitters.

While analyzing home run data is difficult because of the changes to stadiums, analyzing opening day strikeout totals can shed some light on what was going on back in the day. Opening day pits each team’s ace against each other and its power vs. power. From the pitcher’s perspective, they lost some power from ’02 to ’09.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Armstrong’s Vanishing Act Might Force Him to Vanish from the Tour de France

After Lance Armstrong vanished to take a 20 minute shower before providing doping samples when French doping authorities showed up last month, Armstrong now feels that there is a “very high likelihood” he will not be allowed to race in this year’s Tour de France.

Looks like the comeback couldn’t go any worse for Armstrong. He announces the most comprehensive and transparent testing program in conjunction with his comeback to cycling only to abandon the testing without a single test, breaks his collarbone and disappeared for 20 minutes when doping authorities requested hair, urine and blood samples. Now, he appears to be using the only argument left: it’s the French. They are out to get me, always have and always will.

If you know you are a perceived target, don’t disappear for 20 minutes during an unannounced drug test. Do not violate the rules of the sport and expect not to be punished. Public outcry can only help so much, but at the end of the day, rules are rules and violators usually get punished.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Will Piazza Address Allegations at Citi Field?

With the New York Mets opening Citi Field tomorrow, Mike Piazza is scheduled to be part of the opening celebration in a first pitch ceremony with Tom Seaver. This will be a nice complement to how Shea Stadium closed its doors last fall with Piazza and Seaver walking out of the stadium arms around each other. However, tomorrow should add a little more drama to the festivities with the latest controversy surrounding Piazza and PED’s.

Per The New York Times, Piazza has not commented on the allegations nor held a press conference discussing tomorrow’s activities like Seaver. Besides the normal fanfare and hoopla surrounding a home opener in a new stadium, this one could have additional fireworks.

But I wouldn’t expect any earth shattering details. If history is any indication for how these types of stories play out, it will be par the course: deny, deny, deny. It’s only until there is a smoking gun or documented evidence that someone eventually needs to come clean…belatedly. 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Armstrong Evasive During Test

When a French tester requested a sample from Lance Armstrong March 17th, Armstrong hit the showers…literally before providing blood, urine and hair samples.

Armstrong’s assistants reviewed the tester’s credentials while Armstrong took a 20 minute shower. The samples that were eventually provided were found to be drug free. This behavior is in stark contrast from when Armstrong announced his return to competitive cycling when he stated that he would embark on “the most advanced anti doping program in the world.” As we all came to learn, that ambitious testing program he announced in conjunction with his comeback resulted in zero tests.

Armstrong said, "I had no idea who this guy was or whether he was telling the truth. We asked the tester for evidence of his authority. We looked at his papers but they were far from clear or impressive and we still had significant questions about who he was or for whom he worked."

Once the identity was confirmed, the samples were provided. France’s anti-doping authority was not pleased with Armstrong’s act. They sent a report outlining Armstrong's behavior during the test to cycling's governing body and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Armstrong has said he has been tested 24 times without incident prior to this episode.

Everyone wants to believe Lance Armstrong. The man has raised awareness and countless funds for cancer research like no one before him. Being discovered as a cheat would cripple his image and those efforts; no one wants to see that. At the same time, people want to know the truth. For someone who makes a big splashy announcement coming back to racing and appears to do the right thing by embarking on an aggressive testing program only to never be tested once, raises flags. The zero tests under his new plan combined with suspicious behavior, leaving a tester for twenty minutes, and then providing samples is odd. I understand the need to validate the testers, but when will this end?

If you want to be on the forefront of transparency in testing, you don’t go off for 20 minutes and then provide samples. Lance Armstrong knows that; if he didn't, he does now.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Minor League Roid Perspective

In his very entertaining book, Odd Man Out, Yale graduate Matt McCarthy describes his year in the minor league system between 2002 and 2003. The intellectual wasteland, living in Provo, Utah and the shenanigans that occur in the clubhouse are explored fully as well as the pressure that some minor leaguers felt to make it to the big leagues.

The pressure to make it included roiding up. After all, he was in the minors during the height of the roid era. While McCarthy does recount a drug test, the players know that there are two tests per year and can roid out their minds once the unannounced test comes and goes.

In describing the ongoing dilemma with PED’s, McCarthy writes:

“His reaction reflected the dilemma that many players in baseball faced at the time, when the whiff of steroids was always in the air. What might have been nothing more than an innocent suggestion from a coach that a player needed something extra to make the big leagues could be misinterpreted as a coded message to look for chemical assistance.”

The players get into a debate as to whether or not one should juice. The argument to juice is simple: take this product, perform better on the field. The argument against: side effects are worse and unknown. The counter to that discussion is that I chew tobacco, smoke and drink; activities that are all bad for my health, but this product, also bad for my health, will help my game. To that line of thinking, it’s a no-brainer.

Perhaps it's his Yale background coming out or giving the baseball lifers a free pass when he implies that only players are hearing "coded messages" to seek out PED's.  Only players are to blame for the PED problem?  Management needs to share some of the blame during this period since they were more concerned with what kept the turnstiles moving than doing the right thing.  

Monday, April 6, 2009

Horse Trainer Raises Suspicions with Injections

A year after the fiasco with horse trainer Rick Dutrow and roiding Big Brown, a new trainer is causing concern with similar questionable practices. His timing is perfect with the Kentucky Derby.less than a month away.

Trainer Jeff Mullins was busted Saturday giving Gato Go Win a cough remedy substance in the detention barn before the $200,000 Bay Shore. Per state racing rules, New York racing officials removed the horse from the race. The syringe and substance were confiscated and an investigation is underway. Joseph Mahoney, the spokesman for the New York State Racing and Wagering Board, said giving any medication to a horse while waiting in the detention barn is against the New York racing rules.

“If a horse needs a product of this order to get to the finish line, then we have a problem with that,” Mahoney said.

According to The New York Times, the substance was labeled as Air Power, an over-the-counter cough formula manufactured by a company called Finish Line. On its Web site, the company claims that one dose will usually stop a horse’s cough all day and that “nothing manufactured and sold by Finish Line will test positive in any race or show jurisdiction in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, England or Saudi Arabia.”

Unfortunately, for the sport of horse racing, the Mullins-trained I Want Revenge won the Wood Memorial later in the day and is a favorite to win the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby in May.

This is not the first time Mullins has run afoul of the rules of the sport, similar to Dutrow. Turns out, Mullins has a history of medication violations in his base of California. Last spring, he was suspended for 20 days by the California Horse Racing Board for use of the Class 2 drug mepivacaine. Per the NYT, “in 2005, one of his horses tested positive for exceeding the limit of total carbon dioxide, which indicates the horse had a ‘milkshake’ — a concoction of baking soda, sugar and electrolytes that helps a horse ward off fatigue. His horses were put under 24-hour surveillance for 30 days.”

A California Horse Racing Board complaint said another horse of Mullins’s had exceeded the regulatory threshold for total carbon dioxide in a blood sample taken before a race at Del Mar in August.

Michael Iavarone, who heads the International Equine Acquisition Holdings (IEAH), which bought 50 percent of I Want Revenge last week, understood that Air Power was not a PED, and that his Derby contender was not part of Mullins’s violations. IEAH, you’ll recall, was the owner of Big Brown last year trained by controversial Rick Dutrow.

IEAH needs to get a clue. Even though they claimed to be roid free last October and "unnecessary medications," are we supposed to believe that IEAH will police themselves? Two years in a row that they have a major stake or outright owned the Derby favorite / winner, but it has come with a considerable price. The scrutiny and the "win at all costs" mentality with a complete disregard for what trainers and others involved with the horses could be doing to get those wins. Why is it that every trainer who is busted with one horse gets a pass with all the other horses he trains? Ignorance really is bliss.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bling Training Winding Down

This weekend marks the end of spring training and the start of the regular season for MLB. At the beginning of spring training, Doug Glanville provided excellent insight into what spring training is like from a player’s perspective in a piece for The New York Times.

As he recounts how the amenities and the stadiums improve with each step up the major league food chain, Glanville also tells of a similar phenomenon occurring off the field as well. Glanville writes, “What you covet as you advance is determined in part by the people ahead of you.” This jealousy or insatiable appetite of coveting what the people ahead of you have could explain the “whatever means necessary” approach some ballplayers took earlier this decade to land those fat contracts and give them the financial resources to acquire those goods.

Glanville does not speculate that this desire to acquire goods and be equal in the minds of one’s peers would lead some to make less than ideal moral decisions. Greed is the overriding factor that led many athletes to cut corners and not rely on their natural abilities alone. There could be other factors at play, but greed is the driver influencing these decisions.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mike Piazza: Allegedly Roided Up

When it rains, it pours. Recently, there have been articles raising doubts about whether Mike Piazza used PED’s during his playing days. In Jeff Pearlman’s book on Roger Clemens’, The Rocket That Fell to Earth, two players said Piazza was on the juice. Reggie Jefferson and an anonymous player told Pearlman that they believed Piazza was roiding back in the day.

Jefferson said, "He's a guy who did it, and everybody knows it. It's amazing how all these names, like Roger Clemens, are brought up, yet Mike Piazza goes untouched."

Over the past two months two longtime baseball writers raised doubts about Piazza. Murray Chass, formerly with The New York Times, writes on his blog that he wanted to write an article describing his back-ne, but that two or three editors of the NYT would have nothing to do with the piece stating Piazza was never accused of roiding up. Joel Sherman of The New York Post interviewed Piazza in late Feburary regarding this issue, but failed to inquire about the back-ne. When Sherman asked whether Piazza was a clean player, Piazza responds with an “absolutely.” When asked whether his name is on the list of 104 players who tested positive in 2004 that ensnared A-Rod earlier this year, he said, “No, not that I know.”

No one gets the benefit of the doubt these days including “good guys” like Albert Pujols. Sports fans have been lied to repeatedly and burned one too many times to believe that everyone is "clean" when they claim that they are. Unfortunately for Piazza, his denial about the 2004 sample testing is not as forceful as his plea that he was "absolutely" a clean player.  "Not that I know" I'm on that list doesn’t leave me with a warm, fuzzy feeling that he has nothing to hide.  If he was clean throughout his career, he would be absolute in knowing he was not on that list - he couldn't possibly be on it because he wasn't doing anything illegal.  Also remarkable is that he was drafted in the 62nd round as a favor by Tommy Lasorda for his godson and then this player drafted 1,390th overall in 1988 went on to lead the majors in home runs by a catcher…pushes the envelope on believability.