Monday, February 9, 2009

Take Your Pick: A-Roid Or A-Fraud

So let me get this straight. In 2007, Alex Rodriguez unequivocally said that he had never used performance enhancing drugs and confidently (or arrogantly) said he had never needed them at any level or was even tempted, because he had always had enough talent to carry him. So then a story breaks that he tested positive for them in 2003 and then he comes out and admits it but says he stopped five years ago, and we’re supposed to believe him?

This story is a greatest hits of performance enhancing drug-stories. Let’s examine some of my personal favorite clich├ęs from this story:

Arod admits that he used substances but doesn’t know what they were exactly.
-There is virtually no way to prove this is a lie, but does anyone believe that an athlete of his stature, and a man with his image-obsession didn’t ask what he was being given?

He says he thought he was taking something from GNC.
-As it turns out, one of the designer drugs he was taking is not even available in the United States, and none of the drugs he tested positive for would be found in any over-the-counter form. This combination of drugs is used in a meticulously crafted routine that is difficult to detect chemically, and is specifically designed to increase strength and shorten recorvery time while not causing the person to bulk up like a typical steroid user.

He says he is sorry and it was a childish mistake.
-He is sorry now that he has been caught. For the last five years, he apparently was not sorry though.

He says that he stopped using when he realized it was wrong (which was before the 2004 season).
-So he stopped using right after the one positive test…unless of course a new, more recent positive test is uncovered. Coincidentally, you know what else happened in 2004? Major League Baseball made using steroids illegal, so his admission that he used in 2003 cannot possibly result in any disciplinary action…again, unless a more recent positive test comes out.

He is being praised by some for his admission of guilt.
-Where was his admission of guilt before we found out he had cheated? Does it count as a confession if the criminal has already been convicted of the crime? Now he has handled this is better than how some have (Bonds, Clemens), but it shouldn’t get him off the hook.

He is being praised by some for his show of honesty and candid emotion.
-This “show of honesty” ironically proves he is a liar because of that Katie Couric interview in December 2007 when he proudly stated he had never been tempted to use PEDs. Some will say this puts him on par with Andy Pettitte who is also often praised for his honesty after being proved a cheater. But at least Pettitte said used PEDs to help recover from injuries and beat aging. Arod admitted that he only used (during his physical prime) to gain an advantage – to cheat. Incidentally, I think Pettitte is a bum for “fessing up” after being caught as well.

He says that his decision to cheat was based on his stress over living up to his new monster contract in Texas in 2001.
-So he felt less pressure than that when he left Texas to play in New York? For a bigger contract?

To be perfectly honest, I have never really been Alex Rodriguez’ fan, particularly after his slapping Bronson Arroyo in the ALCS a few years ago. I have long thought of him as disingenuous and slimy. So perhaps my criticism here is unfair. However, I have also long thought of him as the potential flag-bearer for the new, clean MLB. He was supposed to be the one to wipe Barry Bonds’ tainted records off the books. As it turns out, he only further mucks up the game and extends the period of time that this black cloud hangs over it.

Since he cannot be suspended for admitting to using drugs before they were illegal, the debate will be whether his records will stand and what this does to his Hall of Fame status. There is no way to tell when he was clean and when he was not, so these questions are tricky. The best analogy I have heard to answer these questions is this: if a golfer plays a legit front nine, but then cheats on the 15th hole, the entire round is wiped out, not just the back nine. Of course the fact that he stopped (or claims to have stopped) right before steroids became illegal means his records cannot officially be thrown out. Toss another asterisk on the record books.

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