We’ve all been duped.
Ever since the Mitchell Report came out more than a year ago, we were all supposed to believe that Major League Baseball has finally cleaned up its act. Yet it turns out, the game is still dirtier that Craig Biggio’s helmet.
In case you were locked inside a cave last week, news broke that Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez — arguably one of the greatest right-handed hitters in history — has been suspended for 50 games by MLB for violation of the league’s drug policy. But he didn’t fail the test because of steroids, he failed because he apparently was covering up his usage.
I guess you can say just the simple fact that Ramirez was caught means that baseball’s new system is working, but if the game’s biggest stars are still trying to find ways to beat the system, something else needs to be done.
"Recently I saw a physician for a personal health issue," Ramirez said in a statement. "He gave me a medication, not a steroid, which he thought was OK to give me. Unfortunately, the medication was banned under our drug policy. Under the policy that mistake is now my responsibility."
First of all, what Ramirez tested positive for was a drug called hCG, a female fertility drug. So are we to think that Manny’s personal health issue is that he’s trying to get pregnant? Hey, that would be Manny being Manny.
But what I don’t understand — and I have yet to figure out why all these players resort to the same answer — is how professional ball players, guys who use their bodies as a means to make money, still continue to "ignore" what goes in their body.
Alex Rodriguez, another star with a history of using performance-enhancing drugs, said that he didn’t know he was using steroids, he just knew that he wasn’t taking Tic Tacs.
Roger Clemens went the same route. The would-be Hall-of-Famer said that he thought was injected with B-12 and lidocaine.
And now Man-Ram plays that same card? You think he’d learn from his peers, but hey, Manny isn’t exactly known to be the sharpest tack in the box.
Apparently Manny is so out of it, ESPN columnist and noted Red Sox fan Bill Simmons once penned that he didn’t think Manny was smart enough to stay on a steroid regimen, and for that reason alone he couldn’t be on the juice.
I guess he was wrong, and we were all wrong to think that steroids, or other performance enhancers are no longer in play.
Ramirez’s suspension proves that, and to make matters worse, his forced vacation from baseball comes on the heels Selena Roberts’ book which declares that Rodriguez took steroids in high school.
If that proves to be true, baseball has an even bigger problem.
It’s one thing for professional athletes to put their lives and livelihood in jeopardy by using, but it’s a completely different monster when you’re talking about 16-year-old kids trying to get an edge on the competition.
Would it surprise me to find out A-Rod, or anyone else for that matter, used in high school? No. Would it make me think differently about the game of baseball? Absolutely.
As a father of young boy, I can only hope that by the time he’s old enough to start playing — and understanding — the game, that it’s cleaned up. That he only hears about steroids through baseball almanacs and while researching why all the home run records have asterisks.
But with the way baseball is headed, I fear that might not be the case.
It’s apparent that the stars are still trying to get a leg up on the competition, and will go to any means necessary in order to do so. If it’s not steroids, it’s human growth hormone. If it’s not HGH it’s hCG. And if it’s not hCG, who knows what it will be.
Whatever it is, it won’t be a surprise.
Jonthan Zopf is a sports writer for The Times. His columns appear each Monday in the spring. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org