Andy Pettitte released a statement confirming he cheated and used human growth hormone just as detailed in the Mitchell Report. Pettitte is a very nice guy, one of my favorite Yankees and a prominent Christian in the world of athletics and I love him for it. Unfortunately, his statement is defensive, petty, and hair-splitting; he seems to be engaging in damage control rather than making the heart-felt confession he should and still could. And let's get one thing straight: Pettitte is not being "courageous" or a stand-up guy. He was caught cheating in the worst scandal in baseball history, he was outed convincingly to the world and unless he successfully sued the people making the claims he knew to be true, Pettitte would forever be tarred as a blot on baseball. Yes, he's admitting the obvious and that's more than most (so far), but he never came forward of his own volition and he's still making excuses for his action. That's not being courageous. Let's look at his statement as quoted in the New York Times.
He begins by attacking: "First, I would like to say that contrary to media reports, I have never used steroids. I have no idea why the media would say that I have used steroids, but they have done so repeatedly. This is hurtful to me and my family," says Pettitte. Uh, Andy, steroids are not somehow "worse" than human growth hormone. It's like attacking people who say you've used cocaine a second before you admit using heroin. HGH and steroids are illegal without a doctor's valid prescription. Being shocked that you're linked to one when you've illegally used the other, breaking federal law in the process, is a little rich.
Then Pettitte tries to downplay his cheating: "In 2002 I was injured. I had heard that human growth hormone could promote faster healing for my elbow. I felt an obligation to get back to my team as soon as possible. For this reason, and only this reason, for two days I tried human growth hormone. Though it was not against baseball rules, I was not comfortable with what I was doing, so I stopped. This is it -- two days out of my life; two days out of my entire career, when I was injured and on the disabled list."
Again, using human growth hormone is AGAINST THE LAW, federal law to be exact. There was no specific baseball rule against that particular illegal drug. But any action that brings dishonor to the game is illegal under the rules of baseball and can be punished by the commissioner. They've never specifically banned the use of a motocross bike to get around the bases quicker, but it's still cheating. Further, cheating to recover from an injury quicker is not somehow less awful than cheating to gain muscle mass. In fact, it can be argued that it's worse. Using HGH to recover from an injury is a short-term strategy that minimizes your health risks, is impossible to detect since there is no useful test for HGH -- unlike steroids -- and won't leave any permanent changes like a head the size of a watermelon or arms like Popeye. Further, casting his cheating as simply trying to shoulder responsibility and help his team is just terrible. No one has a "responsibility" to cheat. Acting as if cheating was somehow a noble course of action is disheartening to say the least. He was taking advantage of every other player on every other team who was injured but refused to cheat and break the law so they could give their team an unfair advantage. And it benefitted Pettitte, too, both at the time and today.
Then comes the kicker: "If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize. I accept responsibility for those two days. Everything else written or said about me knowingly using illegal drugs is nonsense, wrong and hurtful. I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn't looking for an edge; I was looking to heal."
There's nothing I hate more than people who use caveats like "If what I said was offensive to some" or "If my robbing that bank of $50,000 inconvenienced any customers" or "If my slapping you in the face was painful...." How could Pettitte say "IF" what he did was an error of judgment? Of course it was an error in judgment. And everything else said about him being "nonsense, wrong and hurtful?" No, once you've cheated with one illegal drug, it's not nonsense in any way shape or form for people to wonder what other drugs you've taken or how else you might have cheated. And bouncing back days or weeks early from an injury is not just "healing" but of course an edge, a huge edge over players and teams that play by both the rules and spirit of the game. Suggesting otherwise when you want people to think you're apologizing is offensive and shows how far Pettitte has to go in order to truly accept what he's done and begin making amends.
And finally, he says, "If I have let down people that care about me, I am sorry, but I hope that you will listen to me carefully and understand that two days of perhaps bad judgment should not ruin a lifetime of hard work and dedication. I have tried to do things the right way my entire life, and, again, ask that you put those two days in the proper context. People that know me will know that what I say is true."
Again with the caveats. Pettitte says "if" he has let people down? In what world does he not think cheating and bringing shame on himself and baseball is letting people down? Then he calls his cheating "perhaps bad judgment?" What makes him think it might not have been bad judgment?
As a die-hard Yankee fan, I have cheered Pettitte repeatedly and was thrilled he came back to the team. But he broke my heart by cheating, more so than any other player on the list. He let me down. Now he's let me down again by not taking full responsibility for what he's done. Pettitte can and must be suspended for a number of games next season by Commissioner Bud Selig. It would be a shame if that discouraged other players from coming forward, taking their lumps and starting to rebuild their tattered images. Do they think finally 'fessing up after being caught red-handed means they shouldn't be punished? But Pettitte has a long way to go before he gets beyond his defensiveness, makes a truly graceful confession and begins to receive the compassion he needs. He could start by trying again and releasing a statement like this:
"I am in fact guilty of everything described in the Mitchell report. I used human growth hormone and I did so knowing that it was against the law and against the spirit if not the technical rules of baseball at the time. I was cheating. I did so to rebound more quickly from an injury and gain an unfair advantage over other teams whose injured players did not use HGH. I did it so I could pitch in more games and bring more glory to myself and my team. It was cheating and it was wrong.
"I am not being courageous by admitting this. I have been caught red-handed, so to speak. I could not sue my accusers in a court of law because I knew they were speaking the truth. I don't deserve any credit for admitting what has become obvious to the world: I cheated. My word doesn't count for much right now, but I hope you will believe me when I say that this incident was the only time I cheated in my entire career. I never used steroids, I never used HGH at any other time except to recover from this injury and I never cheated in any other way either the rules or the spirit of fair play that is so important in sports.
"I cheated and I will have to live with that forever. Cheating only a little still makes you a cheater. No game, no personal achievement, no salary, no pennant, and no World Series ring is worth losing your reputation and honor over. I forgot that. I have let down my teammates at the time, my current teammates, my fans and the game of baseball both by cheating and by not stepping forward sooner and accepting responsibility for my actions, which have no justification.
"Most of all, I've let down my family and friends and I've set a poor example for my children. Cheating is always wrong. It's a very simple concept and I know it and yet I did it. I expect to be punished for breaking the rules of the game and look forward to accepting that punishment as the first step in rehabilitating my reputation. I have been blessed to play this game I love and become a very rich man in the process. I will feel blessed if I am allowed to play it in the future and if other younger players learn from my mistakes and realize that cheating in any way shape or form will punish you, whether you're caught or not. I hope you will all bless me with your forgiveness. And someday I hope I will have earned that forgiveness. Thank you."
Try it, Andy. A real act of contrition is the first step.