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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Steroids in the Association?

A pitcher in the World Series takes the mound looking like he forgot to wash up after using the potty, and the entire country is subjected to a week-long tizzy on cheating and the national pastime.

An unknown cyclist tests positive for some flavor of performance-enhancers, and it's Oprah material.

A couple of baseball players and track stars testify before a grand jury in the trial of a steroid supplier, and respected journalists get access to the "closed" transcripts, use them as the basis for a book, and are threatened with prison.

But the best player on the best defense in the NFL is hit with a four-game suspension for a failed steroid test, and the only reaction is "How are the Chargers going to get by without Shawne Merriman?"

(An aside... my favorite take on the Merriman story has been the "The Chargers are now without two of their top linebackers" angle... published while ignoring the fact that one, Steve Foley, is out after being shot during a confrontation with the police and the other is facing a drug suspension. Never mind what happened... let's get right to how this is going to affect the point spread.)

What's wrong with this picture? Why is it that we only care when baseball players and cyclists cheat?

With cheating in general and steroid abuse in particular on the top of the North American collective sporting consciousness this week, a reporter for the Toronto Globe and Mail spoke with Raptors Chris Bosh and Fred Jones about 'roids. Jones is built like an NFL halfback; Bosh is one of those super-slight big men who looks like he should stop skimping on dessert.

Bosh had a particularly enlightened view of steroid abuse, saying:

"You'd be a great player for a year, but after that, it would come crashing down."

"You can't play for a long time, getting big that fast, probably because it's more work on the joints."

"Eighty-two games is no joke. It can wear down on you . . . we play too much. Shoulders, ankles, knees, there's too many joints working at the same time."
(It is worth noting what he didn't say... which is "steroids are illegal and cheating is wrong. Besides, the NBA drug-tests for that stuff.)

The NBA does test for 'roids and has since 1999... but the only players who have been caught to date are Matt Geiger, Samaki Walker and Don McLean. None will ever be confused with Anthony Mason in terms of physique. (McLean's suspension inspired one of Charles Barkley's all-time best one-liners, "I've seen Don MacLean naked, and he doesn't use steroids.")

Three guys in seven years of testing. Either the NBA is remarkably free of performance-enhancers, or the marketing genius behind the "Original Whizzinator" is making a mint.


Anonymous said...

Merriman tested positive for a naturally occurring substance.
Others have tested positive for this same substance from eating beef, and vigorous exercise.
It is absurd to label him a cheat based on flawed testing methods.
Merriman tested positve in Aug of '06, and was tested for 4 months before trace levels were found.
Thank goodness he isn't going bald, since that is one of the leading causes of false positives in steriod testing because the NFL does not differentiate between complex compounds that do not occur in nature, and those our own bodies produce.
The message here, the steak you eat today is the positive result of tomorrow.

Charlie said...

Right. Because Merriman is the only guy in the NFL who eats steak and works out. I'm not a biochemist, but I suspect this is not as simple as you're making it out to be.

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