Baseball's Tainted Month
Sport Faces Another Steroids Scandal
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
As Major League Baseball teams prepare to assemble in Florida and Arizona this weekend for another spring training, the sport once again is confronted with a full-blown steroids eruption, complete with renewed congressional scrutiny, judicial action and a new face to a scandal that is now into its second decade.
New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez this week became the latest baseball megastar to have his legacy tainted by revelations of steroids use. On Monday, Rodriguez, the highest-paid and arguably most talented player of his generation, confirmed a Sports Illustrated report that he had tested positive for steroids in 2003.
"Being honest is absolutely the only thing for me to do right now," Rodriguez told ESPN. "I hope soon enough we can put it in a vault and move forward."
That is a wishful sentiment baseball has expressed for years now, only to find the vault will not close.
Nearly 11 years since a bottle of the steroids precursor androstenedione was spotted in the locker of St. Louis Cardinals slugger Mark McGwire, six years since baseball began testing players for drugs, four years since the high-profile congressional hearing in which McGwire refused to "talk about the past" and 14 months since the Mitchell report on steroids use in the game sought to provide "closure," the sport remains unable to escape the taint of performance-enhancing drugs.
"It tarnishes an entire era to some degree," President Obama said at a White House news conference Monday night, responding to a question about Rodriguez. "And it's unfortunate, because I think there were a lot of ballplayers who played it straight."
Yesterday, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), a longtime member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, suggested the panel invite Rodriguez to be interviewed by its staff in order to gauge the need for further action.
"I don't necessarily see the need for another hearing, unless there is something in that interview to lead us . . . to conclude it would be appropriate," Cummings said. "But when the top player in baseball is found to have used steroids, it seems to me he would be an appropriate person to talk to. Right now, we just want to see if we can bring some closure to this thing."
But how? Even as baseball sorts through the fallout from the revelations regarding Rodriguez, a three-time American League most valuable player, the sport is facing the twin embarrassment of seeing the greatest slugger and greatest pitcher of the past quarter-century, both now retired, pursued by the Justice Department for allegedly lying under oath about steroids use.
In San Francisco, former Giants left fielder Barry Bonds, the game's all-time home run king, is set to go on trial March 2 for statements he made to a grand jury in 2003. In Washington, a grand jury has begun hearing evidence in a perjury investigation into seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens for statements he made before Congress last year.
Meantime, yesterday, one day after Rodriguez confirmed his steroids use, former Baltimore Orioles shortstop Miguel Tejada was charged with misrepresenting facts regarding his knowledge of drug use in baseball in a 2005 interview with congressional investigators. He is expected to plead guilty this morning in U.S. District Court.
Steroids, human growth hormone and other performance-enhancing drugs -- most of which are illegal without a prescription -- are known to help athletes build lean muscle mass, heal more quickly from injuries and withstand the grind of a long season.