Anybody remember the mid-2000s? It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? Remember when San Francisco Giants player Barry Bonds etched his name into the record books, only to add an asterisk when he tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs, and got indicted for it? Remember when the great Roger Clemens got taken to court over similar charges, then again later for perjury in the first trial? Boy, that was a long time ago. With the massive wave of anti-doping sentiment that swept through professional sports, especially the MLB, American fans believed that the steroid era was finally laid to rest.
If only that were true. All of that incredible idealism has been exposed as folly by modern slugger Ryan Braun, whose doping tests revealed suspiciously high levels of testosterone, indicating probable use of PEDs. The MLB levied a suspension against Braun, which was then overturned by a third-party arbitrator who said that a second test came back normal.
Huh. Really? After he had a period of time to stay clean to lower his testosterone levels the next test came back normal? And people say professional athletes are meat-headed idiots: this guy’s brilliant! All he had to do was go off the drug for awhile to save his career and get the suspension lifted.
Wake up people. The steroid era is not gone, and never will be gone until the system actually gets corrected. Bud Selig, the commissioner of the MLB, was livid about the arbitrator’s decision, and with good reason. This kind of idiocy shows you the absurdity of protection for athletes.
Before Bonds and Clemens, no high-brow professional athlete in recent memory had been convicted for a major crime before. O.J. Simpson got off, Ben Roethlisberger has gotten off twice and now Braun has been let off the hook. Remember in the mid-2000s when everybody thought the landscape of sports and the way athletes are punished for offenses was changed forever? Not so much. Do you really think Alex Rodriguez went from a toothpick to a home run machine on milk and snickers bars? Not a damn chance.
Steroids aren’t even a new problem. When I was a little leaguer, I idolized Mark McGwire. When he and Sammy Sosa squared off in pursuit of Roger Maris’ single-season home run record I watched every game I possibly could. I remember begging my Dad to let me stay up late and watch him play when he neared the record. I still have newspaper articles from the end of that season when the record fell. And guess what? He doped too. Now he’s the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Hopefully his coaching doesn’t draw too much from his own background.
Doping doesn’t have to be something that American baseball lives with for the rest of its existence, but something’s got to change soon or it just might end up that way. The system protects its money-makers, and until the league can put its foot down and dole out some real, tangible punishments steroid use is here to stay. You think ball players would still dope if they faced a two-year ban from baseball if caught? I don’t think so. Bud Selig, there’s still time to save your legacy as MLB commissioner. Do the right thing and actually try to put an end to this.
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at email@example.com.