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The Steroids Witch Hunt
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tee
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The Steroids Witch Hunt - 07-31-2005, 10:40 AM

Kind of a lame read, but Im still in the hole so I better keep posting


THE STEROIDS WITCH HUNT

By Michael Smith
ESPN.com

If you've ever had a teacher scold an entire classroom because two kids wouldn't stop talking, then you know that the many often suffer for the few.

And if your girlfriend has ever declared "all men are scum," then you know what it's like to be judged based on actions not your own.

That's what's happening in professional sports these days. The steroid users, however many or few, have made it hard on their peers. Athletes, both clean and dirty, are being painted with the same wide brush of suspicion that is being wielded at will in The Steroids Age.

The current rage over who's using performance-enhancing drugs has hurt the images of all pro athletes, not just the guys who've been caught.

And that is unfair.

Heard of racial profiling? Well, if you've come to think every 220-pound slugger who hits homers into the second deck takes steroids because one prominent player refused to address the issue before Congress, another reportedly admitted to a grand jury that he in fact took them and another testified the he might have inadvertently done so, then you're guilty of athlete profiling.

If you think the NFL, with its 32 rosters full of 300-pounders, has as big a steroid problem as Major League Baseball because three Carolina Panthers reportedly had prescriptions filled before the Big Game two years ago and a few Oakland Raiders slipped through the cracks before them, then you're as guilty as they are, only of a different crime.

And if you've begun to examine many modern athletic accomplishments with a skeptical eye because there's a movement to have asterisks affixed to its records, remember that everything is not as it seems.

Clearly, when it comes to steroids, size doesn't matter. Alex Sanchez, the Tampa Day Devil Rays' leadoff hitter, should have taught us that. He was suspended 10 days for violating baseball's new substance-abuse policy. He weighs a buck-80 and has all of four career home runs. The moral of the story: One "little" guy taking performance enhancers means every big guy doesn't take them.

But we don't want to believe that, do we? Too rational. It's much easier to generalize. Easier but wrong.

And, unfortunately, popular. Thus it will take quite a few more admissions/suspensions before we can ever trust again. Many still seem to be convinced that Sammy Sosa took something of some kind, even though he told Congress (through his attorney) he hasn't and hasn't tested positive for anything (for the record, he hasn't been tested at all). It's generally accepted that Barry Bonds is guilty, though all we have on him is the reported grand jury testimony that he might have mistaken "the cream" for flaxseed oil, along with the word of his mistress. Because Sosa and Bonds are perceived to be cheaters, from now on anybody who pushed 60 homers in a season can expect to have the legitimacy of at least 20 questioned. Pro football players who are dedicated year-round to the maintenance of their bodies will have to pay a price for paying the price.

The fans have joined in singing that popular refrain of the convicted: Everybody's doing it.

Negative test results apparently aren't enough to offset the damage done by the BALCO scandal because – let's face it – criminals always have been and will remain a few steps ahead of the law. It doesn't take dirty urine or contaminated blood for an athlete's career to be placed on trial. Now, in this environment of uncertainty and flawed policy, in the U.S. Appeals Circuit District People's Court of Public Opinion, the burden of proof belongs to the defendant, even though the evidence is lacking in some cases.

Besides, even if an athlete gets by the testing procedures, he won't be let off the stand in the eyes of the fans until they decide to dismiss him. Bonds and Sosa may never regain their reputations as American heroes, regardless of how many times they deny juicing. Todd Helton's good name was so important to him that he went on a national campaign to refute statements made by a former Colorado Rockies broadcaster that the prolific first baseman was, at one point, "on the juice." Few people even knew where Bo Jackson was until last week, when he held a press conference in Chicago prior to a White Sox-Indians game to announce that he had filed a defamation lawsuit against a California newspaper that, as it turned out, misquoted a dietary expert as saying she knew personally that steroid use contributed to the end of the former All-Star football and baseball player's career 10 years ago.

The Inland Valley Tribune issued a retraction and apology Sunday, but not until Jackson, so angered by the accusation, felt it necessary to issue a public denial. Being accused of steroid use is like being accused of a sex crime – innocent or not, people most likely are going to look at you differently. Jackson tried to make certain that would not happen in his case.

"I've got nothing to hide," Jackson said. "If anyone wants to check into my medical past, go get blood tests, go check up on those blood tests and see if there was any anabolic steroids in it. You're more than welcome."

That's how it is, how it has to be nowadays. Excel. Then explain.

Lance Armstrong had an easier time beating cancer than he has had with the banned substances rap. Now a former personal assistant claims he discovered a banned substance in Armstrong's apartment, a substance that, if true, the six-time Tour de France winner somehow managed to slip past 150 drug tests (by Armstrong's count) over six years.

"I think the topic is very hot right now, all that's gone on in baseball, the Olympics," Armstrong said. "But fortunately for us [cyclists], we're tested.

"If you're a baseball player you can say, 'I don't do it,' and the public can say you do or you don't, your body has changed, your performance has changed," he said. "But what we get to say, I get to say, 150 times in the last six years I've been tested, in competition, out of competition, in Europe, in America, at home, at a race, seven [in the morning], seven at night, and they're all clean."

We're staging an all-out witch hunt for steroid users. We can clean up our sports without tarnishing innocent athletes' images. So be careful not to burn everyone at the stake.
   
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