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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Drugs in Sport: Digging the MLB out of their grave.

[Writers Note: This topic won't go away and I can't resist setting it straight. There is a good deal of crossover here between my hobby (writing about sports), my paying job (Nutritional supplement consultant), and lastly my education (Pharmacology – ie. Drugs). While still wet behind the ears in the writers' game, I can unquestionable speak from an authoritative position with respect to the latter two credentials.]

Little has been resolved regarding the steroid issue in baseball following the publication of the Mitchell Report. In fact, more questions have arisen from the clearly contrived report produced by an individual paid tens of millions for his investigation. The same individual who also remains under the umbrella of the Boston Red Sox organization. From his labours over the past 18 months, George Mitchell gave us a handful of superstar ball players, namely Clemens, Petitte and Bonds, a few others that could have rounded out an All Star team circa 1993, and several dozen additional faceless names. This is much more than a clear disappointment, it's fraudulent. Former Senator Mitchell was the judge, jury and executioner throughout this spurious investigation, and decided to wield his axe merely for show in favour of bending a few old timers over his knee. Bluntly, the Mitchell Report is as synthetic as the performance enhancing drugs which he was chartered to report on.

Prior to dealing with the issue of the players themselves and their integrity in a sport which ignored, and thus backhandedly endorsed the use of steroids, hGH and their cohorts, the organization brass of the MLB require stern reprimand. The league's problem today was their solution and saving grace in the early-mid '90's when the home run records were being shattered by McGwire and Sosa, prior to which their attendance and television ratings were at near all-time lows.

At the time of all this, Major League Baseball made a conscious decision to ignore their cheating in lieu of the rejuvenated revenue associated with the success of the games juiced-up stars. In doing so, they became complicit to the illegalities embarked upon by their players. But when the dust bunny that was the issue of performance enhancing drugs became the elephant in the room – who just passed wind – nowhere to be found were league officials who deservedly must share the blame. This whole era is a black eye on baseball from top to bottom and will continue to looked upon as such for decades to come.

In yet another blunder the league hoped that commissioning Mitchell to report on the abuse of performance enhancers would atone for their lack of foresight issued previously. The Mitchell Report was nothing but a cage that merely sheltered the prey in shark-infested waters. Instead of demanding answers, journalists and reporters waited eagerly for this report, which promised no stone unturned through thorough (but voluntary) interrogation of those inside and out of the game. The release of the 400+ page document last week found itself quickly in the hands of baseball lovers alike, but instead of squelching the issue of cheaters and quieting the speculation to validity of records, it chummed the waters and broke open the cage.

The intentions were good, but the means were suspect to valid criticism. Yes, Geogre Mitchell is an employee of MLB, and is great friends with the Commissioner himself. No, he could not use the power of subpoena to demand the truth from those he interviewed. And yes, while a lawyer and former Senator himself, Mr. Mitchell was fully aware of the causal nexus he could plunge himself and the MLB into at will.

Do you consider a report from a wealthy, well-known league employee, limited to analyze receipts and hearsay as evidence genuinely credible given everything we've learned about this situation. No, or at least thats the take of those with a rational opinion on the matter. There is a reason the term honest lawyer brings about a grin from most who hear it – and Mr. Mitchell can thank the free pass he gave to the MLB executives and countless hundreds of players for that. Mr. Mitchell is owed a steroid-size debt of gratitude to all those he failed to call out and incriminate, for whichever reason he saw fit.

We just need to move from this whole era. Accept it as another one of baseballs injustices and avoid trying to deduce sound conclusions from so much convoluted information. Although where fairness is concerned a proper solution remains allusive, I propose the records stand asterisks free. The problem was too rampant, too miffed up from the start to go patching it up in the wrong places now. Regrettably, this era of doping and record breaking will bring about one solemn conclusion: baseball is now formerly 'the only sport in which records actually matter'.

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