Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Doping: America gets Wake Up Call with the Mitchell Report

I needed a few days to digest all this information and really think about this blog entry.

The Chicago Tribune on December 16th banished this story to page 10 of their 18 page Sunday sports section. Clearly sending a message about how popular sports are viewed in America. Bottom line = the bottom line. Who can blame them right? Don't bite the hand that puts money in your wallet and fills your pages for months on end. This is exactly why I don't use my journalism and communications experience in some sort of career effort. I would call out what I see.

No. Instead we are treated to excuses and lies from columnists and broadcasters (like ESPN). Making every possible excuse for doping athletes, the commissioners who supported the rampant use of drugs, the lack of honesty and ethics is disgusting like a slaughterhouse floor. After all, MLB, the NFL and other "popular" sports pay the bills for a lot of people. ESPN, CBS, ABC seem to always make fun of triathlon and cycling for - why not the NFL where a typical lineman looks like a fat guy you'd see in a bar? How come Offensive lineman seem to always loose huge amounts of weight in retirement? Do you really think I'm so stupid that I don't equate some of the behavior, spousal abuse and rage issues of the NFL to 'roids? Oh, I forgot. Don't ask don't tell, especially when so many people's financial security is at risk.

Let me turn back the clock for you. Early 1990s. Baseball has just cancelled it's premiere event The "World Series" (should be the MLB Championship - but that is another argument for this ethnocentric culture). Attendance is falling. TV ratings are approaching all time lows per household. Once baseball crazy fans are turning to the NFL and other "fringe" sports faster than ever. Suddenly, home runs begin flying out of baseball parks and some cities are seeing a revival of attendance. Mark McGuire breaks the single season home run record. Then Barry Bonds breaks that record again. Sammy Sosa (still not implicated in all this) has multiple 60+ home run seasons looking about 3.5 times his original MLB size. He claims it is due to "Flintstone Vitamins" and holds up a bottle for the press. Later that year...Mark McGuire has a seemingly innocuous photo taken of his locker...with a bottle of "Andro" in it and the questions start to fly. In his retirement from baseball, McGuire looks like a shadow of his former self.

BALCO goes down and suddenly names. Once denying that she did drugs - US Olympic sprinter Marion Jones has a tearful admission to doping on courthouse steps. If she lies under oath it is prison time and she knows it. She is stripped of her gold medals 7 years after she won them. (reader's note: the IOC won't take a medal away after 8 years) No new medals are awarded by the IOC because the gals behind Ms. Jones are also suspected of doping. So the "true" Olympic Champion could have been from the Bahama Islands or Jamaica. What a shame for those athletes and their countries. In the US gold medals are expected; regardless of the support of those "Olympic" sports by the press. In small countries, the Olympics are still the reason people complete - pride, honor. That is a rant for another day. Just watch the Beijing Olympics...

33 players named in the report are still playing. Some are "super stars" - Roger Clemens, who, in his 40s has gained 4-5 mph on his fastball. He still hasn't commented, except through his lawyer. Andy Pettitte, Clemens teammate and workout partner, admitted that everything Brian McNamee has said is correct. At least he is a man about it. Other athletes are "fringe" players, guys trying to "hang on" to the high MLB salaries for another year or two. Either way - they are all cheaters. 16 MVPs went to those on the sauce. 43 players in the "World" Series were doping. 37 "All-Star" players. Sickening. Let's face it. A lot of these "men" were doping at the same rate as cycling. I guess they can't really make fun of cycling and triathlon anymore, eh?

I believe that Bud Selig, MLB Commissioner (and former owner) and the ownership of Major League Baseball knew and supported the culture of doping by turning their heads to it. They had to get the American public going back to baseball. As long as club values go up and league revenue is approaching an all time high of $6 Billion/year...go with it. Ethics be damned. NFL...don't go're in the same boat. The player's unions are to blame too. They know that more revenue means that everyone "gets theirs". Right up until they die at a young age of 41 like Ken Caminity of a heart attack. Ken was the first public admission of steroid use in baseball in 2002.

The baseball pundits have been debating if Barry Bonds is a "Hall of Famer". Sure. He was before he doped. Put him in for what he did PRE-doping but put an asterisk by his name for the rest. Same goes for Clemens, McGuire, Giambi, Glaus, Pettitte, Tejada and Gagne- the first vote on them getting into the Hall of Fame comes AFTER their death. Then if you are serious about doping...LIFETIME BAN just like Pete Rose.

Sound drastic? Perhaps. Got any other ideas about how to put enough bite into stopping people from doping? It is time to stop the cheating. Athletics are to test human ability not breakthroughs in modern chemistry. Ban the dopers for life and if it were up to me, erase their name from ever competing.

Support the elite athletes like Paula Radcliffe who are out in front demanding that the EPO cheats get out of her sport. A clean athlete would talk to anyone, anywhere that they are clean. They would because they have done nothing wrong.

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