So Gio Gonzalez has passed drug and urine tests given to him by Major League Baseball after his name turned up on a list of clients who possibly purchased performance-enhancing drugs at the Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
Gonzalez appears to be that rarest athlete of the new millennium — the one who didn’t do it — although MLB has yet to officially clear him. An ESPN report cited a document that indicated Gonzalez had purchased $1,000 worth of dietary supplements. Nats fans certainly hope that’s all it is, because a positive PED test can lead to a 50-game suspension. More than that, it would have been a signal that their Nats heroes of 2012 were beginning to show signs of FoCS (Feet of Clay Syndrome).
Somewhere, someone is probably marketing a supplement to cure FoCS. Why not, when there seems to be a supplement for everything (some permitted, some not), and someone dopey enough to take them? Why, oh why, do athletes continue to ingest products about which they know almost nothing? If fake drugs can be administered to cancer patients, if labs can be so careless that their medications kill patients, then why on earth would you choose to take a supplement produced by Dr. Whackadoodle’s Mystery Garden Emporium? Yes, these prescription drugs that killed — by omission or commission — were overseen by the feds, but at least someone eventually caught on.
Many athletes are like careless teenage girls who accept a drink from complete strangers at a party. We wonder who in the world would do that, in this age of rohipnol smoothies and ketamine cocktails, but it happens. NFL players may have to take the Wonderlic, but some are still not smart enough to realize that smoking pot, or taking Viagra as a performance enhancer, might not be the best ideas.
Players these days should know better. They have a wealth of resources at their fingertips, starting with, well, wealth. But there’s more: Baseball provides guidance on these issues; if a player feels the need for a supplement, he can call MLB and ask if it’s accepted. How many players, after they are caught, claim that they didn’t know a PED or steroid was hidden in the supplement they bought?
Players are sent into the offseason with workout programs; some follow them, some are Ruthian in their disregard. But no one jogs around a spring training facility in a rubber suit these days. Teams expect players to remain in shape and show up in shape, in part because they are making enough money to help them do just that. They no longer have to sell cars or peddle insurance in the offseason; they just have to stay healthy and in one piece.
And yet, as long as the offseason feels to baseball fans, that’s how short it feels to most players. That’s why some guys wait until January to have that shoulder surgery they’ve needed, or delay getting their travel visas until their suitcases are packed — if they miss a few days of spring training, or the whole thing, then so be it.
So while they may intend to stay in shape during the offseason, they also want to wind down, relax and enjoy time with their families and friends. That might mean they’ll wind up in a health store looking for a supplement without considering the consequences, or worse still, they’ll wind up in one of these “clinics” and their name will appear on a list. Either way, it’s not hard to come by pills better left in the bottle — they’re all but throwing them off floats at Mardis Gras and distributing them in Pez dispensers topped by a little plastic “doctor.”
Nancy Reagan had it right: Just say no. Laugh if you want, but these guys aren’t junkies looking for a fix, and they aren’t regular citizens like most of us, who aren’t given drug tests as part of our employment. Not taking supplements, or taking only those approved by the team, is not rocket science, it doesn’t involve a huge sacrifice, and it’s not just about baseball and a player’s availability for the season. It’s about a player’s life and livelihood.
Nats fans took the initial report about Gonzalez hard. They fell for him the moment he hit town. Remember how he delighted everyone at his first news conference? How he got a date via Twitter? How he almost always smiled? Oh, and he also won 21 games and put himself into Cy Young contention. The Nats gave this town a feel-good story, and he was a big part of it.
Now we’ll find out if Gonzalez is as smart as he is charming. He needs to avoid further involvement with these clinics and stop looking to supplements as the answer to what ails him. Or he’ll find himself taking 50 straight sick days.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.com/