Sports Goggles

Steroids Rules: Revisionist History, Revising the Present as It Passes and Revising the Future Before It Comes

with 13 comments

larussa.jpgFirst, let’s cut the bullshit talk out. All the, “Roid rage, his head grew, he’s so much bigger than last year,” etc etc. etc. ad nauseum, has to cease. Now.

All anyone is doing by parroting that talk is attempting to bullshit you, me, and anyone else who might be listening or watching. So, when you hear that come from someone’s mouth and they are alleged to be an insider or an expert – turn off to them. Stop listening because they are, at least – and I’m being ultra kind here, uninformed.

Sunday, on ESPN’s Outside the Lines show, Bob Ley narrated and moderated a solid segment on the history of the culture of steroids in Major League Baseball. The enigmatic former Cincinnati Reds and Florida marlins trainer, Larry Starr was interviewed. As he had in previous interviews for newspapers, Starr told of his experiences in trying to bring steroid abuse problems to the attention of MLB executives during the 1989 MLB Winter Meetings. He also talked of a player who gained 30 pounds of muscle in one winter – from 165 pounds to 195 pounds – and feeling at that moment that baseball had a “problem” with steroids.

Baseball players in the segment like Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine made excuses for steroid abuse:

“What goes on in the clubhouse stays in the clubhouse. That’s the culture of the game. And it doesn’t matter if the guy has a drinking problem or guys are doin’ drugs, or whether guys are doin’ things in their marriages they shouldn’t be doin. You just don’t discuss that.

If they’re going out there and performing, then there’s reason for everybody in the whole chain-of-command to not worry about what’s goin’ on or at least not explore so much what’s goin’ on.”

In other words, Glavine, as do almost every other MLB player, engages in “the code of silence.” It is a code that can only bring with it negative outcomes. It is the code that must be broken by policemen when they expose graft in their department. It is the code that must be broken by politicos to expose lies in the government. It is the code that must be broken by corporate employees when those they work for willfully entwine themselves in illegal acts that negatively impact the public.

The code of silence is self-centered construct that is one of the many manifestations of the psychopathic nature of the corporation that so dominates American life. Glavine’s admission should be viewed as a self-indictment and an indictment on every Major League Baseball player or coach or who abides by its malfeasant principles, like ————- St. Louis Cardinals manager, Tony LaRussa.

The George Will-anointed “genius” of baseball is degenerate enough to turn a blind eye to the goings-on of his players, indulge in ill-advised behavior of his own, be smug enough to smirk and evoke American principles of freedom when questioned about such issues:

“There was not the first mistake or illegality in the Oakland A’s program or here in St, Louis, not when Dave McKay [ran the weight training program in Oakland and St, Louis for Tony LaRussa] was running it. That’s why I’m so staunchly defending the Oakland A’s program and everyone who was on it.”

And when asked if he should have checked his players more closely, in full, pompous conceit, LaRussa replied:

“This is America – not a police state”

Former general manager for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets Jim Duquette was asked a crucial question by ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn. A lead investigative sports reporter at the New York Daily News on the PED beat, Quinn came to ESPN in the fall of last year to spearhead their new investigative sports news division. Quinn asked Duquette whether “anyone thought the conversations he and other GMs had were morally or ethically wrong.” In short Duquette’s answer was no.

Minutes later in Ley’s report there was one preciously illuminating moment provided by statements from Quinn himself that leads directly back to his query to Duquette and every other mainstream reporter who has weighed in on the steroid issue, save a few:

“Bud Selig said they were going to have an investigation into what andro (androstenedione) was. They hired an endocrinologist from Harvard University [in 1999] who did a study…”

Here Quinn laughs sardonically before continuing:

“But that same winter you had the medical directors from both Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association speak to clubs at the Winter Meetings and gave what people there said was a pro-testosterone speech. Said that there were definite benefits to it; that they should consider informing the player’s about the benefits and dangers. There were people who left that meeting shocked that that was the opinion of the two top medical people in the game.”

This is where there the unfathomable disconnect between writers like Quinn and other of his ilk with reality occurs. It is here where Quinn and the many like him stop – for whatever reason(s) – short in their investigative work and cease in aiding the conversation about performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and sound more like propagandists. The result is that they fail to educate their peers, fail the public, and even fail lawmakers who, in part, rely on their countless hours spent close to the subject of PEDs for direction.

There is scientific evidence upon which Quinn can use responsibly explore the issue of steroids. There was apparently a study that was conducted by the medical directors from MLB and the MLBPA and, of course, there is the study conducted by Dr. Norman Fost. Fost’s findings on the subject of steroids and his feelings about baseball and steroids bear repeating:

Fost, in an interview in Steroid Law, discusses steroids and their potentially harmful effects:

RC (Rick Collins): So, there isn’t any scientific proof that the short-term changes that are common with intermittent steroid cycles are connected to heart disease?

NF (Norm Fost): Correct, and the cardiologists that I have talked with think that it’s unlikely that it would be. Many steroid risks have been wildly exaggerated or misstated in the press. Take the famous interview with Lyle Alzado, the NFL player who developed a brain tumor and claimed, “See? This is what happens when you use anabolic steroids for too long.” Nowhere in the article was there a single reference or scientific source for any connection between steroids and brain tumors, because there is none. These stories appear in the leading journalistic media, creating the false impression that the claims are somehow supported by scientific studies.

RC: Have the media fairly put the risks in perspective of other risks that athletes voluntarily assume?

NF: No, not at all. For example, playing in the NFL for three years or more risks an extremely high rate – 80 to 90% in one study – of permanent disability. That’s unfortunate, but it goes with the territory and nobody says this is a reason to ban professional football. It’s something that competent adults decide to do in exchange for the money, glory and pleasure that they get out of it. We don’t think, in America, that people’s liberty to take risks like that should be interfered with, just so long as they are not harming anyone else. Whatever the risks of steroids, even the most extravagant view of the risks isn’t remotely in that category in terms of potential for permanent disability or even death. There have been dozens of deaths attributed to playing football. I’m not aware of any football players who have died because of steroid use.

RC: What about critics who argue that the adverse effects of steroids won’t be seen or known for years, decades, or even generations?

NF: That’s an argument that can be made about any drug, any food, or any device that uses a new technology. It’s a reason why we have regulations; why we have an FDA that requires careful testing, and NIH funding for long-term studies. It’s a reason to do continuous monitoring of drugs’ effects, for having an adverse event reporting system, and for having people using these drugs under medical supervision. Everything has unknown risks. Steroids are no different. The mere fact that there are unknown risks is not a reason to prohibit something.

In a San Francisco Chronicle column by Joan Ryan about steroids hysteria Fost rebukes the nature of the information concerning steroids and castigates Major League Baseball:

“There’s mass hysteria [about steroids] because of sheer misinformation…”

“If baseball is so concerned about level playing fields, then why is George Steinbrenner’s (New York Yankees) payroll six times bigger than my Milwaukee Brewers’?…”One wonders, then, about all the beer ads at baseball parks. What kind of message does baseball’s celebration of beer send to teenagers? Unlike steroids, alcohol kills 75,000 people a year in the United States.

“Not only are players not screened for alcohol, it’s embraced and advertised,” Fost says. “Baseball is delighted to be in cahoots with the alcohol industry.”

“Sheer misinformation” is what Quinn and others spread to anyone who cares about PEDs and their relationship to athletes and sports.

It is unconscionable for Quinn not to report, at least, the “how did they come to this” of the findings by the MLB and MLBPA medical directors. It is reprehensible for Quinn to fail to heed – if he even acknowledges its existence – of the HBO Real Sports program, “A Contrarian View,” that aired in late June-early July of 2005.

Quinn is a second-generation disinformation artist. He takes his cue from a much younger Armen Keteyian who was largely responsible for beginning the late-20th hysteria about steroids some 20 years ago in his article written as a sordid eulogy for ex-NFLer Lyle Alzado. And almost 20 years after his screed he sat in front of Dr. Fost and apologized for being an accidental progenitor of the same type of disinformation Quinn – and those who do the same as him – spreads today. Almost 20 years later Keteyian sat in front of virulent anti-steroids buff, Gary Wadler, formerly of the world Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), and found that Wadler had no scientific evidence to back his claims that steroids were the evil he claimed they were; found that Wadler had no idea that Fost’s work existed. Sadly, Wadler was reduced to pathetic phrases like, you’re playing Russian roulette with your health, and why would you take a chance using them even if they aren’t harmful?

Here we are, with scientific evidence before us in the way of a peer-reviewed study that clearly shows that steroids taken under a physician’s care have no deleterious effects on healthy males over the age of 25 and that every male, because of a natural reduction in the amount of testosterone produced by the body, should take monthly injections of steroids to lead a healthier life – and the study is shunned like an “amulet” – that was actually nothing more than a pendant – might have been during the Salem witch trials.

Like those trials, we have Barry Bonds as the man who would be crushed under heavy stones for maybe – or not – practicing the fine art of witchcraft and allegedly lying about his practice. And Quinn and Howard Bryant and Shaun Assael with his fallacious beginnings for modern steroid use (for a truncated version of the actual beginnings in the U.S., click here) and his account of the “war on steroids,” and the dynamic duo of Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams are nothing more than modern-day versions of Reverend Cotton Mather. And what then of Congress? They are the white wig-wearing magistrates who now have Roger Clemens prone under the weight of the heavy stones, readying him for a place next to Bonds.

It is easy to dismiss the words written here as those of an “outsider.” However, to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to noted and accomplished writers like Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post, says that there is something deeper at stake here, some kind of gambit on the “grand chessboard” of Zbigniew Brzezinski that we are missing.

Perhaps it will serve as a better reminder of the issues if the end is served by Ms, Jenkins:

If the Mitchell report creates a new willingness to listen, to have a discussion about sports doping that’s more nuanced and forgiving, if it results in greater consideration for Bonds and clemency for Jones, then it will have done some good….

The whole nature of the enhancement and artificiality in sports needs more candor. Not an investigation that unfairly criminalizes the issue, but rather seeks to truly understand the motives and problems of athletes. Are there dosages that aren’t harmful to one’s health? What does, and doesn’t, actually enhance performance? Why did Marion Jones’s times actually get slower on Balco products? Why did Miguel Tejada’s slugging percentage decrease for three straight years? If an aging player uses HGH simply to recover from injury, or to prolong his career, to keep his job, is that really cheating?…

Here’s a fear. One day we might look back over our shoulders and realize that we created our own generational versions of Jim Thorpe. In 1912, Thorpe was singled out and punished for “sullying” the Olympics. He was found to be “impure” and stripped of his medals because he wasn’t an amateur, but rather had played two summers of baseball for money. The practice was utterly pervasive. But Thorpe was the only one disgraced for it, because it was easier, and more emotionally satisfying, to punish an Indian than all the Yalies who did the very same thing. Thirty or fifty years from now, let’s hope we aren’t similarly ashamed.


13 Responses

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  1. When people say that sports are a microcosm of society, it’s not just a cliche. Every office has it’s secrets that you just don’t tell those that don’t work there. I saw parts of OTL yesterday. Baseball takes it to another level. Obviously, stop snitching is the code of more than just the streets, even though the MSM would have you believe it’s just the domain of the yo boys, hoppers, and street thugs. But, maybe that’s why we have been seeing more drunk driving incidents in baseball. No one has the guts to tell another player that he might have had too many. Or they don’t call him a cab or tell someone at the club about it.

    One of the most troubling things about the Barry Bonds case is, even guys that don’t like him, say that they never saw him use and didn’t think he would use PED’s. Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds didn’t mix like oil and water. But even Kent said that Bonds was anal about monitoring what went into his body. That poll that came out from USA Today the other day that said that less than 50% thought that Bonds deserved to be in the Hall of Fame. It means that Bonds is going to take the weight for the Steroids era of baseball as the WWL calls it, circa 1980-2005, even though it’s never even been proven that he took them. Of course, it’s much easier to like Pettite, Clemmens, Sosa, or McGuire. After all, they were/are more friendly with the media. Never mind that Bonds was already a great player before the accusations.

    To parallel what you are saying about steroids, and because black history isn’t just relegated to one month, what about the black actors from the ’50’s. Many of them were labeled communists, and had trouble getting work. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were among those labeled. Hence, neither has ever won an Oscar. Paul Robeson’s films and recordings were pulled from circulation in America because of his support of the Soviet Union and making statements like blacks shouldn’t fight for a country that treats them as fourth class citizens. He was essentially black-balled for the rest of his life in America.


    March 3, 2008 at 9:20 am

  2. kos-
    I hadn’t seen the USA Today Bonds poll…. it seems like Bonds will at least take the brunt of the blame of baseballs recent alleged ills (of which, alcohol seems to be the worst of it —- see, Scott Spiezio)….

    Ahhh yes. “The “Steroids Era.”…. Let’s see, and before that was the “Cocaine Era.” And before that was the amphetamines era (though they transcend eras).” And before that was the “Booze Era.”

    And before that was the “White Only Era.”


    March 3, 2008 at 9:30 am

  3. @kos

    I’m with you until the last paragraph. The fact is many of the earlier black actors, hell actors in general even today are communist. I don’t see why you act like it is a lie. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were communist and so was Paul Robeson.


    March 3, 2008 at 9:36 am

  4. dwil>Let’s not forget, opium and cocaine were actually legal in the early 1900’s. No telling how much of those drugs the early baseball players did. Oh, but I don’t think it would affect their playing ability.

    DavidMac> Even if it is true that they were communist, my point was they unfairly took the brunt of the punishment. White actors, generally were forgiven and could find work later on, while black actors remained marginalized. And please, the fact that neither Ossie or Ruby ever won an Oscar is a crime in itself.

    Much of the black actors in the late 40’s and early 50’s being labeled communists in the first place had more to do with them being too “uppity”. They were activists fighting for equal rights for the black population in general. Many at the top of the government wanted to put them back in their place, so they put them under investigation, and dragged their names through the mud, hoping that it would silence them, and discredit them in the eyes of the black community. Luckily, it didn’t.


    March 3, 2008 at 10:30 am

  5. Kos wasn’t dezzie and Lucile ball labels communist.

    They were never blackballed.


    March 3, 2008 at 11:51 am

  6. Dwil, did you see Grant Wahl’s article over on SI about fan behavior at college games?

    I think we’ve discussed the problems with the fan/player dynamic at this site and at the Starting Five, but I wondered if you’d noticed it.

    I read through it myself and thought it did a decent job of outlining the symptoms, but did little to address the root cause of the problems.

    I talked about it over at my blog.

    Big Man

    March 3, 2008 at 1:59 pm

  7. @origin

    Lucille Ball and Desi were never named communist, they didn’t give firm answers in front of the committee, but they were never blacklisted.

    As for blacks getting the brunt, that is false, a great deal of up coming whites and blacks were all taken out by the blacklist.

    The government came down on everyone.

    @Big Man

    Reading the SI article you reference, I can’t help but feel the author is a pussy. While I agree that the throwing of drinks and such is unacceptable and that those who do such things should be removed, I also see no problem with any of the chanting.


    March 3, 2008 at 3:05 pm

  8. David Mac I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.

    Big Man

    March 3, 2008 at 4:17 pm

  9. […] morning I posted an article on T.J. Quinn – and other sportswriters – and his failure to seek out and report pro-steroids […]

  10. Allen (“Big Man” is difficult)-

    I read your post and – agreed and excellent treatment of the subject… As for Wahl’s article, I liked it. And, as a writer, I know that I can’t provide solutions every time I tackle a subject.-topic. It just depends on how far along I am in dealing with a given topic. Sometimes all I can do is explain or explore a topic because that’s as far as I understand the topic. Sometimes I’m only as far as asking questions and putting out prohibitive answers to my own questions. But sometimes I can provide solutions, too…..

    So perhaps Wahl was-is in a pre-solutions stage in his thinking about fan behavior.


    March 3, 2008 at 5:15 pm

  11. Kos, is yesterday’s communist today’s Jihadist? You know…if you’re not with us, you’re against us kind of thing.

    The fear of the other is nothing but fear of the smallness inside of you (you meaning MSM dog and it’s flea circus).


    March 3, 2008 at 10:41 pm

  12. dwil: great article… keep on banging this drum… it may be a couple of years but this is one issue that I see an eventual mass turn on. Maybe 5 years is more like it…

    Big Man, good article and I like Wahls article too. Both the fan behavior AND the accepted homophobia are worthy of further attention in their own right.

    As for DMac, I’m a native New Yorker (code for thick-skinned) and I have no children (code for have no children) and I was truly appalled by fan behavior at the last Jets game I was at. If I had kids, I would never take them. Shit is out of hand


    March 4, 2008 at 11:39 pm

  13. […] 3.03: Steroids Rules: Revisionist History, Revising the Present as It Passes and Revising the Future Befor… […]

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