Tuesday, September 14, 2010

MLB wins in battle against the government

Major League Baseball is on a winning streak...at least, in the courts.  While the popularity of the sport has crested, MLB can point to the fact that the courts have ruled that the government did not have the right to grab the steroid data MLB collected in 2004.  It's the fourth time the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled on the issue during six years of litigation.

Why MLB did not destroy the data in anonymous testing is still not known, but apparently the 104 players who tested positive will not be found out...at least for now.  The data siezed will now be turned back to the lab unless an appeal is made to the U.S. Supreme Court.  The latest rulings of that court would likely leave the government losing again.

The data was going to further the government's investigation into doping in the sport.  Apparently all non investigative parties involved do not want to learn more about doping in sports.  It's a great message to send to the public. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Armstrong playing same defense

Federal authorities are closing in on Lance Armstrong. The investigation stems from doping claims made by former teammate Floyd Landis while both were riding for the United States Postal Service. By riding for the USPS, federal authorities can explore whether the team used their funding for PEDs.

Armstrong and his team have done what they always do: deny and shun his accusers. When it comes to Landis, Armstrong says that he lied previously so has lost all his credibility. The first athlete to profess using PEDs while competing and not failing a test has yet to emerge. Athletes cheat and deny it because they lose all credibility once found out.

Cycling has been found to be one of the dirtiest sports with blood doping and transfusions in order to get an edge. The governing body of cycling has been active in trying to prevent doping, but the cheaters are always ahead of the testers. Are people really supposed to believe that Armstrong did not dope, but everyone else in cycling did and still weren't able to beat Armstrong?

The government's investigation should shed some light on whether that assumption is correct.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Canseco blew the whistle, but never saw it when it came to Clemens

Best-selling author Jose Canseco who blew the whistle on steroids in baseball through his tell-all “Juiced,” never saw Roger Clemens use steroids according to his grand jury testimony.

Interesting how the guy credited with producing real reform in a troubled sport has now been characterized as a shady soul only looking out for his financial interests. Rumors had circulated earlier that Clemens made a financial payment to Canseco to keep his name out of the book. Whether true or not, Canseco has maintained his story stating that he only talked about steroids with Clemens. While this could just appear to be semantics, it is an important distinction.

By saying that they talked about steroids provides some doubt to the grand jury. If Canseco, the kingpin of roids, did not supply or inject the Rocket with rocket fuel who did? That answer is easy enough: Brian McNamee who admitted to administering several steroid injections.

When was the last time you discussed any topic with multiple people to help make up your mind? Did you purchase that product or make that decision with everyone you discussed it with present? No, and is probably the same situation with this courtroom battle.

Canseco does have some credibility issues. While praised for turning the tide of drugs in baseball, he has been short of fully truthful. He held back additional names in order to write a sequel, “Vindicated.” While that was a money grab, he was correct in naming Alex Rodriguez.

It would have been shocking if Canseco admitted to providing Clemens with PEDs. His roundabout way of answering questions was just an attempt to muddy the waters for the grand jury. Hopefully, they can see they through the muck.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The joke is on the AP after Cushing revote

The latest doping revelation in the NFL raises some serious concerns. Brian Cushing, the Houston Texans linebacker, violated the NFL’s anti-doping policy last September. His suspension was announced earlier this week and after playing the entire season (after his positive test), he was voted the Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Associated Press.

First off, what caused the delay from the failed test in September to the announced suspension in May? There should be due process, but to the point where a cheater can play the entire season and then be punished does not seem right.

Secondly, after playing the entire season, Cushing was voted the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Associated Press didn’t like being duped so they decided to have a revote for the award. After the revote was taken, Brian Cushing was still the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Having a revote makes sense. However, the voters in the AP made a mockery of the system by praising and rewarding a cheater. When Marion Jones admitted to cheating, she was stripped of her medals. There was no revote or determination of her worthiness. She cheated and was properly disciplined.

Apparently that is not how the voters of the AP feel. Their vote in essence rewards cheating. If Cushing was suspended for a quarter of the season and didn’t have the numbers he had, he would not be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Yet, after knowing he was dirty, didn’t sway the needle to a clean player.

Maybe next time the AP voters will take their vote seriously and reward a clean player rather than a dirty one. If not, message is heard loud and clear: performance over values. My grades: A for effort, but F for execution.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Finally, a win for animals

Some trainers have been doping horses as mentioned in previous posts and the main argument besides whether it’s right or wrong boils down to the fact the horses have no say in the matter. Unlike baseball players who make a willing decision to cheat and can discontinue use at a given moment, animals do not have that same luxury. They are at the mercy of their trainers and owners.

One owner is paying the price for his mistreatment of horses. Ernie Paragallo, a thoroughbred breeder and owner, was convicted on 33 charges of animal cruelty Wednesday for starving and neglecting his horses on his New York farm. As many as 177 horses were mistreated. At least Paragallo is taking responsibility. After a raid on his farm, he said in a videotaped interview, ““I’m not denying it; if they want to lock me up, maybe they should. Whether it’s my fault or not, it happened and it’s my responsibility.”

How many times does an athlete caught with his hands in the cookie jar issue some veiled statement about being a good teammate wanting to get back on the field or not knowing what a trainer gave him. Knowing your body is the business of an athlete. It’s how they make their living so these excuses are pathetic and weak.

Paragallo now faces up to two years in prison and $33,000 in fines. He will be sentenced May 18th.

For the first time in a long time, the focus has been on the health of the horses. The next step is to include using PEDs as a form of mistreatment.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mark McGwire’s buddy act on ESPN is a poor show by both parties

Watching ESPN’s SportCenter for the first time in a long time, I was surprised to see Mark McGwire holding a mike and laughing it up with a baseball analyst. The emotion and setting reminded me of the farcical summer of 1998.

That year, ESPN’s coverage of the home run chase never hinted that something might be amiss. They were part of the baseball machine drawing monster ratings as Americans checked in to see who hit a home run on Baseball Tonight. Why should they, a news gathering organization and provider of content, question something that was so good for business?

Integrity is one reason. Even after that summer and people started to question baseball players accomplishments as being legitimate, ESPN and their baseball experts stuck to their guns and toed the baseball line: there’s no drug issue in baseball.

Turns out they were wrong. Whether they were wrong intentionally is another issue, but with the Mitchell Report, Game of Shadows and other revelations emerging that many players were cheating (including McGwire), ESPN then turned a different tune.

With that about face, ESPN should just cover McGwire returning to baseball as the hitting coach of the St. Louis Cardinals and move on. Instead, he’s being buddy-buddy with the analysts like the good old days. There’s a simple reason for this: he wants to get back in the good graces of baseball and possibly end up in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It should also be questioned whether McGwire is even qualified to be a hitting coach. He was known as a home run hitter with a less than mediocre average. His home run strength came from PEDs. It doesn’t appear to be a good fit.

McGwire's brother has even come out and said that Big Mac used PEDs to get bigger according to SI.com.  This would contradict his previous explanation to heal from injury why he cheated the game.

McGwire can chum it up with ESPN as much as he wants, but we know the real Mark McGwire and he’s not that guy on ESPN.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Jockeys revolt against owner

Horse racing doesn’t have issues; it’s a great sport…riiiight.

In a rare show of solidarity jockeys in Pennsylvania are revolting against any horse owned by Michael Gill. Since October 1st, six Gill owned horses have had fatal breakdowns. It’s an unusually high number given the short time period which led to the other jockeys uniting to protect their safety. If an unfit horse has an issue during the race and falls the chain reaction that would ensue would likely harm other horses and jockeys.

In an interview with the New York Times, Gill claimed the racing surface at Penn National was the culprit for the fatal breakdowns. The jockey boycott started January 27th when a Gill owned horse broke down after crossing the finish line and had to be euthanized. Afterward, the Penn National jockeys told management they were boycotting all future races that included a Gill horse.

Whenever a dispute erupts in horse racing, whether it be doping or not caring for the animals, there is always a ready explanation. No one ever says that I was doing whatever it took to win. Instead, it’s the surface. The jockey rode the horse too hard. It’s never the drive of the owner to increase his winnings and stud fees.

Good for the jockeys to take a stand. Unlike the horses they ride, they are the only ones who can.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

ESPN's conflict of interest

The worldwide leader in sports, ESPN, was not the network that aired Mark McGwire’s first interview. When Mark McGwire came clean (or as clean as he was willing to go) on television, he did so on the MLB Network with Bob Costas.

When Alex Rodriguez admitted to cheating, he was interviewed on ESPN by Peter Gammons. The interview and Gammons were mostly panned by critics since Gammons did not ask probing questions or follow up when necessary.

McGwire and his PR firm, the same firm that represents the reprehensible Bowl Championship Series, learned from A-Rod’s mistakes in admitting PED use. McGwire conducted a full court press with interviews to the AP, multiple newspapers, ESPN (via phone) and concluding with the television interview.

ESPN missed the boat on the steroid era. Their reporters never did any investigative reporting as to how these athletes were achieving these herculean results. Viewers were told countless times that these athletes are not cheating, rather it was an improved nutrition and workout program. The pundits always went back to the line of PEDs “don’t help you hit a fastball.”

No one ever doubted that. If I were to inject beef roids, I wouldn’t suddenly be able to launch moon shots in Yankee Stadium. If you believe that, I might need to confiscate your driver’s license. Where PEDs help baseball players is turning warning track power into home run power. Apparently, Mark McGwire didn’t get that memo by claiming he would have been able too hit all those home runs without the PEDs.

Did ESPN miss the story on purpose? It’s possible. After all, they are both a news gathering organization and partners with many sports when they produce and televise various events. Is it possible to do both and maintain one’s integrity?

It’s doubtful. ESPN’s fortunes were tied to the popularity of baseball. Why put a dark cloud on the sport by reporting that what the public was seeing was a sham? It would ultimately hurt ESPN financially if it was reported that were roids were rampant. Like the ad went, “chicks dig the long ball.” Apparently, everyone dug the long ball and there was no need to find out what caused the long ball.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Same song for Mark McGwire

The baseball writers have spoken. Once again, Mark McGwire was not deemed worthy of enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

McGwire finished with 23.7% of the vote. A player needs 75% to enter the hall. Apparently, the writers are either waiting for McGwire, the recently appointed hitting coach for the Cardinals, to address the issue of his PED usage to change their minds or they are content with excluding him. The writers and I are still waiting for McGwire to address the elephant in the room.

What's interesting to note at looking at the official results, David Segui received one vote. Segui was a main character in the Mitchell Report since he was a client of Kirk Radomski and spread the "good word" of PEDs throughout baseball since he was on several squads. Segui did not hide his usage. He was direct and honest with investigators. That behavior, while wrong to cheat, he is at least trying to make amends. Apparently, only one voter thought that was commendable.