It was a great time to be a baseball fan in 1998. Two of the sport’s greatest sluggers were embattled in a duel for the single-season home run record, set at 61 by Roger Maris back in 1961. It came down to Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, of the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Eventually, McGwire broke the record and settled at 70 home runs, with Sosa belting 66. This battle captivated and enthralled many around the world, and brought new life to the game of baseball.
It was a great time, indeed.
Enter the new millennium, where Barry Bonds of the San Francisco Giants belted 73 to take the record and etch his already well-known name into the annals of baseball history. However, something bigger loomed over his head – and the heads of other power sluggers.
Enter BALCO, Bay Area Laboratory Co-Operative. During a government investigation, it was revealed that the lab was producing a performance-enhancing drug called tetrahydrogestrinone – THG for short and affectionately known by users as “the Clear.” They also found a list of athletes that frequented the lab.
On the list were pro baseball players, football players – even Olympic athletes. When Barry Bonds came under scrutiny for appearing on this list, his trainer Greg Anderson came to the forefront as one of the dispensers of the drug. Greg would eventually reach a deal with the authorities to keep the FULL list of names a secret.
Some deny their involvement based on the list, but if you do a little research, it’s easy to see that this particular list holds a good deal of credibility.
Marion Jones, Olympic sprinter who won numerous awards, forfeited all of her awards as far back as September of 2000 after admitting to using PEDs.
Hammer thrower John McEwen, who won a bronze medal at the 2003 Pan American Games, was disqualified after testing positive for THG.
Shot putters Kevin Toth and C.J. Hunter were part of the scandal. Toth retired after revealing he used PEDs, C.J. Hunter was disqualified from the 2000 Summer Olympics for using PEDs after finishing second in the Olympic trials.
Sprinter Dwain Chambers was banned for two years from Olympic competition after testing positive for THG in October 2003.
Sprinter Tim Montgomery was stripped of all of his records in 2005, including a now 100 meter world record of 9.78 seconds set in 2002, for taking PEDs. He was given a two year ban, and subsequently retired.
Sprinter Kelli White was stripped of her medals and records in 2004 for testing positive for PEDs. She subsequently retired in 2006.
Distance runner Regina Jacobs tested positive for THG in 2003 after becoming the first woman to finish in under four minutes in the 1500 meter in Sevilla. She was thus banned and retired.
Many players from the Oakland Raiders were also on the list, with admissions of using THG coming from Dana Stubblefield and Bill Romanowski.
And of course, many baseball players made the list, but let’s keep that all a secret, right? The public doesn’t need to know that the heroes of America’s favorite pastime are dirty cheaters. Only the ones who had the unfortunate distinction of making the list.
Re-enter Mark McGwire. Whenever inquired as to his usage of PEDs, McGwire has remained mum. Dodging questions, avoiding the truth, deflecting. The man who captivated the masses and gave sports reporters the biggest field day they’d ever get refused to talk about his involvement with PEDs.
Enter 2010. It’s a new year, a time to make amends and move on. After taking the job of hitting coach for the Cardinals, mercifully, finally – McGwire admitted to taking steroids. My question is this: Why can’t they just release the Mitchell Report? Release this list of names to end any shadow of a doubt. The game I used to love has been scarred enough – by corporations, and now drugs. Putting Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire in the record books is a slap in the face to the true legends of baseball, such as Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth. It’s sickening to know that these cheaters will be mentioned in the same breath at the true legends. I hope Bonds stays far away from the game and never comes back. I also hope all of these miscreants stay as far away from the Hall of Fame as possible.
Why can’t they release it? Money. Viewers. Did I mention money? If you release this report, the reputations of hundreds of ballplayers will be marred forever. There will be no more deceit, no more investigations by a government that has bigger problems to handle, no more speculation. Yet viewers will fade, attendance will drop, and the corporations will have wasted their time polluting the landscape of these parks with their insignia.
I don’t know about you, but hearing people these days accuse every player that comes around and belts 50 home runs a year of taking steroids takes all of the love of the game away from me. Hearing people sitting in front of the TV speculating as to which next big thing is on the juice makes me despise the game. It’s not something you can exactly ignore.
I find it embarrassing that Congress has had to intervene with all of this steroid stuff. With every other major issue coming to the forefront in 2008, they found it pertinent to stick their nose in the business off the MLB. I understand, it dealt with illegal drugs – but that’s the problem. When did it become acceptable to start taking PEDs? I say the designer of THG should be jailed for at least life, for the degradation of the bodies of hundreds of athletes and having a hand in marring the reputation of a once savory, respectable game. I’d also suggest docking the outrageous pay of some of these players and putting it towards a new, improved anti-steroid policy – I’d even go as far to suggest putting it towards a new PUBLIC investigation. One where the fans of the game who have kept these franchises running can get a front-row seat to view the BS and get a good, strong whiff of it. Metaphor aside, the fans deserve to know which of their heroes of the game are lousy cheaters.
There seems to be no easy solution to end the controversy. When all of these guys retire, they find it safe to admit they took PEDs. They can’t be suspended, they can’t have their pay docked – they’re free. And they couldn’t care less. My best advice? Sit back in your easy chair, flip on the game and enjoy it as it is – because things will never change.