Baseball gives another A-OK to steroids

<p class="MsoNormal">The so-called &ldquo;issue&rdquo; of steroid use is made nearly irrelevant by the pundits on both sides who seek to include all sports &ndash; there&rsquo;s a crisis in cycling, there&rsquo;s debate in baseball, there&rsquo;s no problem in hockey. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>I guess that means it all averages out, doesn&rsquo;t it?<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">This is a shame.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Let me rephrase that: it&rsquo;s a shame that this has been watered down to the point of general indifference on the part of those who should care the most.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Today, baseball commissioner Bud Selig, never known for his integrity or leadership, <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news?slug=ap-selig-giambi&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns">offered what amounts to a pardon</a> to notorious doper Jason Giambi. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>If you&rsquo;re a baseball fan, perhaps you care to some degree, but if you&rsquo;re not, then this is going to be completely outside of your radar. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>The result is that doping is allowed to continue at a &lsquo;reasonable&rsquo; level in baseball, and the league will only hold the occasional meeting or if you&rsquo;re really stupid enough to <em style="">get caught</em> doping. Then you&rsquo;ll be suspended… unless you&rsquo;re a big star, then see the aforementioned part about meetings.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Baseball is right in the middle of the spectrum when it comes to worldwide doping. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>You&rsquo;ve heard the stories about cycling and the Tour de France the past few years, with one cycling star after another either being suspended, banned or <a href="http://sports.yahoo.com/sc/news?slug=ap-contador&amp;prov=ap&amp;type=lgns">under investigation</a>. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Floyd Landis <a href="http://freefloydlandis.blogspot.com/">still maintains his innocence</a>, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/31/sports/othersports/31cnd-lance.html?ex=1186632000&amp;en=beedf0e8dae125f1&amp;ei=5070">as does Lance Armstrong</a>, but the teams and sponsors of the accused are starting to react with more initiative and guile, since there is real money to be lost by being associated with cheating and drugs.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Yes, the world of cycling is in a self-described crisis, and it is serious about cracking down, after years of half-measures.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">On the other end is hockey, which claims to not have a steroids issue.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>There have been no major cases, no real flaps at all. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>The hockey culture, at least, promotes health &ndash; well, aside from the regularly administered concussions, fractures, lacerations, ligament tears and lost teeth. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Is it a coincidence that hockey is the smallest of the &lsquo;big four&rsquo; sports in the <st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">U.S.</st1:place></st1:country-region>? <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Perhaps not &ndash; it could be argued that the level of competition to break into professional hockey isn&rsquo;t the same in America as it is for the other sports, and once you&rsquo;re in that competitive sphere, and you see that the guy who&rsquo;s one step closer to The Show is doping, it must be difficult to not take up the same methods. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>In the world of baseball, where such practice is rumored to be rampant, and the NFL, where such rumors are regularly quashed internally, you can bet that it is awfully hard to not use all the methods at your disposal.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Look: we know they&rsquo;re doping, we know they&rsquo;re cheating. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Baseball has recently endured the mockery known as the Barry Bonds homerun chase, where the discourse over the validity of the impending changing hands of the all-time record was questioned in every single article, every single day. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Even those writing about it daily had to admit long ago that the subject had grown stale, but their jobs dictated that they persist. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Has baseball gone down the tubes because of it?<span style="">&nbsp; </span>Certainly not. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Bonds now owns the record, and baseball parks still fill up,<span style="">&nbsp; </span>although not to capacity.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Football stadiums do not empty on the rumor of a doped star.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>But if Peyton Manning, Ladanian Tomlinson and Brian Urlacher all tested positive before the season began, would people eschew football? <span style="">&nbsp;</span>I think not.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">And that&rsquo;s the issue, really, is that sports are a business, one that depends on fans being interested. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>As cycling starts to see fans dropping off, it is taking action. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>As baseball continues to barely skate by under the tainted shroud of Bonds, Giambi and other cheaters, it will continue to do so, because the ruling class worry that changes will be worse than the status quo. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>If football saw a dent in its bottom line, perhaps it would take countermeasures, but in the meantime it works on the theory that public perception of doping in the NFL would be bad, and thereby takes action to make sure that doping does not come to the fore.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">The reason most often given for the banning of &lsquo;doping&rsquo; substances is that it is dangerous to the health of those using them, and although we don&rsquo;t care what happens to some spoiled millionaire who is paid to sacrifice his body, it&rsquo;s the kids who look up to that athlete that we should worry about, the kids that may be your own. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Do you think the commissioners and owners of the multi-billion-dollar sports care about your kids? <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Not as long as you&rsquo;re buying a ticket for them.<o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
<p class="MsoNormal">Hence, the responsibility is yours.<span style="">&nbsp; </span>The gatekeepers won&rsquo;t react unless their bottom lines are hit, just like it is across the rest of an open market. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>The problem with Barry Bonds is that it&rsquo;s not really that impressive to cheat in order to smack a ball, but when an offensive lineman juices up and crashes into a nosetackle who has also partaken of the needle, it is epic. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Those football players are gladiators, and we want to see them get trampled, flung, crushed and dismantled. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>We know they&rsquo;ll leave the game limping, lisping and thinking slower, so why would we care if they&rsquo;re putting illegal chemicals in their bodies? <span style="">&nbsp;</span>These are human tractors, so anything short of bionics are acceptable, under the cover of night. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Baseball, on the other hand, is about individual match-ups, and if only one side is cheating, it really takes the fascination out of it. <span style="">&nbsp;</span>If we knew that Pitcher X was doping just as much as Bonds and Giambi, then it would be a fair match, but when just one is known to be cheating, what&rsquo;s the point? <span style="">&nbsp;</span>Or better yet, where&rsquo;s the sport in that?</p>