Where Have All the Steroids Gone?

It has been months now since we have heard the word "steroids" uttered in the sporting news about the allegedly "cheating" baseball players. In early February, even before pitchers and catchers reported for spring training, anonymous sources reported that Alex Rodrigues had used performance enhancing drugs. Months later, an illegal leak by -- say it ain't so -- lawyers connected to the BALCO investigation revealed that David Ortiz was also on the list of players who had tested positive for something in 2003. The press had a field day with the previously unblemished Big Papi.

Recently, however, the silence has been deafening. Could it be the public is no longer interested in hearing about what happened in the early years of this decade? As the 2009 championship season reaches its exciting conclusion, could it be that we will have to wait until the off-season for the next installment of this soap opera? Or, as a result of the random testing, could steroids be history?

I have reached the conclusion that this contretemps has all been the creation of the media.
This is not to suggest that there isn't some story imbedded within the carnival. Sports is the preserve of the law, where following the same rules that apply to all is essential to the level playing field. These athletes, whether they like it or not, are role models for our children. It is a grievous loss when athletic icons go to jail, as has recently been the case with some notable football players. Taking illegal drugs would certainly be a story.

That is not what has been claimed concerning baseball players, however. Ortiz, it is said, took a dietary supplement that could mask the taking of steroids. There is no evidence he took a substance prohibited under the criminal laws or the laws of baseball. Much the same was the case with A-Rod.

It is no coincidence that, for the most part, sports writers broke their steroid stories during the off-season when there is not much baseball news around. Of course, when an anonymous source dumps the Ortiz leak during the season, it must be played when it appears. Red Sox fans were worried about Big Papi's failure to start playing the game until two months into the 2009 season. The drug testing story offered an explanation for Ortiz's lackluster performance. It happened to all players who had to go off "the stuff." The faithful rallied to Papi's side. Since then he has had his usual spectacular year, although his batting average never recovered. No one has bothered to say "never mind" about the drug accusations.

The only steroid news since the shameful accusations against David Ortiz has been the court ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in August on a suit brought by the Major League Baseball Players Association. Federal authorities had seized all the 2003 drug-testing records as part of their BALCO investigation, although their subpoena only referenced information related to ten players. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, normally a staunch conservative on criminal matters, castigated the Bush henchmen: "This was an obvious case of deliberate overreaching by the government in an effort to seize data as to which it lacked probable cause." Perhaps the government could not tell the difference between ten records and a hundred. It is refreshing to know that the Fourth Amendment is still part of the sacred covenant that is our Bill of Rights.

For ballplayers, however, there will be no redress for the injury to their reputations. Like the "A" on Hester Prynne's clothing, the accused players must wear their shame for the rest of their careers. What will compound the injury is if the only way they get to Cooperstown is as tourists.

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