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Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Commentary: No shortage of excuses for steroids

December 19, 2007

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Everyone in baseball wants to "turn the page" now that George Mitchell has told all of its dirty secrets, outing its glamorous superstars, shamed its faceless role players and confirmed that its conveniently blind owners and consistently obstructionist labor leaders have their fingerprints all over the crime scene.

They want to pretend that it's all over now, and baseball's steroids era has been officially ended, which anyone with a brain knows isn't so.

But most of all, they just want you to be stupid.

The embarrassed athletes who are coming out of the woodwork to clear their names are desperately trying to wash the stink of guilt off their hides.

Here's the new rap. The bad men used steroids to cheat and break records.

But that's not me. I was just a gritty foot soldier caught up on the wrong side of the steroids war.

First it was busted New York Yankees pitcher Andy Pettitte, who over the weekend issued a well-crafted "apology" that was filled with so much bogus insincerity. "If what I did was an error in judgment on my part, I apologize," Pettitte said. "Everything else written or said about me knowingly using illegal drugs is nonsense, wrong and hurtful. I have the utmost respect for baseball and have always tried to live my life in a way that would be honorable. I wasn't looking for an edge; I was looking to heal."

And then on Monday afternoon, former Cardinals second baseman Fernando Vina followed up Pettitte's crocodile tears with an equally flimsy apology that once again tried to shape him as a gritty, self-sacrificing team player, not a drug cheat looking for a chemically enhanced competitive edge.

"Did I do it to hit more home runs or get an edge? No. I did it to get back on the field," Vina told ESPN's obviously skeptical Bob Ley, who kept peppering him with straight questions that only produced crooked answers.

The spin we're getting now is that human growth hormone (HGH) is just some miracle drug that simply heals weary muscles and serves as a helpful aid to rehabilitating athletes. They seem to forget to read the page that tells you that HGH is the new drug of choice for drug cheats looking to get bigger, faster, stronger and leaner because, unlike conventional steroids, there is no way to detect it in your blood or urine.

So spare me the spin doctoring on this one, OK?

You can't turn the page until you are at least willing to admit a smidgen of the truth. And the fact is that all the evidence that was exposed by Mitchell and the exhaustive reporting of the real heroes of this process - the investigative sports writers and authors from San Francisco to New York, and even our friendly publicity-seeking tattletale Jose Canseco - has identified and unearthed the real truth.

So when I sat there and listened to Vina get amnesia when Ley grilled him about all those personal checks that were written to admitted baseball steroids peddler and drug snitch Kirk Radomski, and the best Vina could come up with was that they might have been gracious "tips" for the ultimate "hook-up man" who had picked up his laundry, washed his car, copped him some custom car rims or executed some other errand as a hustling clubhouse gofer, I wanted to chuckle.

I can hardly wait to hear what Roger Clemens has to say after his lawyers and PR flacks try to craft his alibis for being the chief protagonist in the Mitchell Report.

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