That finger-wagging moved me, I admit.
Compared to the uncomfortable, evasive performances by Mark McGwire and others in front of the Congressional committee investigating steroids back in March, Rafael Palmeiro's vehement denial of any involvement was a relief. One of baseball's most renowned "nice guys" forcefully stood up with pointed finger to clear his name. It was just the image of playing the game "the right way" that the public so badly wanted to believe in, and so we believed Palmeiro. His became the feel-good story that sustained us after we'd been shaken by the number of apparently tainted big-name stars--Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Jason Giambi, just to name a few.
Then of course came this week's biggest story--not just on the sports page, but the front page as well: the announcement of Rafael Palmeiro's suspension for a positive steroid test. His hollow defense, that he never "intentionally" took steroids, is exactly the kind of empty excuse that has caused fans to question the integrity of a decade's worth of baseball milestones. Furthermore, if a NY Times report is correct that Palmeiro's infraction was for use of Stanozolol (the steroid that got Olympic sprinter Ben Johnson stripped of his 1988 gold medal), then Palmeiro is--it hurts me to say it--a liar.
Jose Canseco is no noble muckraker, and his word still unreliable, but what does appear to be true is his assertion that steroid use is rampant in baseball. Is this year's crackdown on steroids the reason why an aging Barry Bonds, who hasn't played a game this year, is unable to recover from a knee injury? It's not just the heavy hitters who are popping the pills, either, as the suspensions of lithe outfielder Alex Sanchez and little-known pitcher Ryan Franklin prove. Is steroid use even worth it in the first place? Jason Giambi had both his reputation and his health damaged thanks to his steroid use--and is this year, having finally overcome numerous setbacks, enjoying a resurgence at the plate. With the current frenzy of public outrage at steroid usage in sports, and testing procedures getting beefed up, it no longer makes sense to use steroids even for their competitive advantage.
While writing this post, I heard that Palmeiro has agreed to release information on his failed steroid test to Congress and will answer "each and every" question from the investigative committee. Perhaps the outcome of all this will be a vindication for him and other major leaguers who, for some reason, still take various questionable "dietary supplements" and then naively express wonder that said supplements were the cause of a failed test. You'll excuse my pessimism, however, if I doubt this story has a happy ending.
CB Archive: 'Roid Rage (February 14, 2005)