Friday, December 14, 2007

Baseball needs to follow IOC's lead

ON BASEBALL

While the "Mitchell Report" received several consecutive hours of coverage on ESPN — and many other networks, both sports and news — throughout Thursday afternoon and well into the evening, the saddest story of this depressing last week in sports (think: Michael Vick, Bobby Petrino, etc.) garnered close to no national attention.

Marion Jones
, one-time superstar, one-time role model for female athletes, one-time holder of five medals, was forced to return those three gold and two bronze medals and was banned from even attending the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and possibly future Summer Games.

Jones' results from the 2000 Sydney Olympics — and from any event since then — have been scrapped by the International Olympic Committee as a result of her admitting in October that she began using steroids before the Games. Basically, a young girl in 50 years who examines Olympic records and medalists won't even know Marion Jones existed.

That's the way to punish a drug user.

Seriously.

Major league baseball commissioner Bud Selig would be wise to follow the IOC's example. Not that that's ever going to happen.

The fallout from the Mitchell Report will be minimal. Selig said he might attempt to punish players on a case-by-case basis. He'd be wise to simply let what's happened go and, instead, refocus on creating a much stronger policy for both anabolic steroids and Human Growth Hormone (and any new performance-enhancing drug that hits the market).

The current initial punishment for a player who tests positive is 15 to 25 games. A second violation is 25 to 50 games. A fourth — yes, fourth! — positive test is at least a year's suspension.

Are you kidding me? So a major leaguer could test positive for, let's say, the cream not, once, not twice but three times ... and be suspended for 50 to 75 games.

No wonder some 85-plus players were named in Mitchell's 409-page report. If I wasn't against cheating and I was in the majors and needed a boost to get that next contract, uh, it's a no-brainer. Have a trainer stick a needle in my backside every now and then, and watch my numbers soar.

In one sentence, baseball's "crackdown" on performance-enhancing drugs to this point has been a joke.

While it was nice to clarify that bullies such as Roger Clemens were on 'roids, all the report does is tell us what we already know and make baseball purists cringe even more than they have during this Steroid Era. As ESPN's "legal analysts" made painfully clear about 409 times Thursday, there are no cases against the players. Donald Fehr, the executive president of the Major League Baseball Players Association, won't let any of his players go down — for even a measly 15 games — without a few Mayweather right and left jabs.

Plus, several of the named players are already retired — good time, I guess — and others, specifically Clemens and Barry Bonds, are likely done now as well.

The only major effect the report will have on the players mentioned is when their names come up in the Hall-of-Fame conversation. And won't that be fun?

If Selig, or anyone in baseball, wants to make a real impact here, he needs to implement a lifetime ban from baseball for any first-time offender of the league's policy. As crazy as this sounds, ask Marion Jones. I'm sure she'd agree.

Players need to fear for their careers when they make the choice to do 'roids. Players need to question themselves when they inject HGH, even though there still isn't a reliable test for it (although Selig is in favor of implementing a rather new blood test starting in 2008).

Ultimately, players need to be sent a stern message that if they get caught taking any amount of any banned substance, that's it. They're done. Regardless of their names. Regardless of their accomplishments on the field.

Is this realistic? Of course not. Fehr will not comply. The players will rage against it, which, I reckon, says so much — sadly — about the priorities of today's players.

Selig promised Thursday to unilaterally implement all of Mitchell's suggestions for the future that he could, and work with Fehr on the rest. Here's another suggestion for you, Bud: Rid of your weak, 15-game suspensions.

Unless you closely follow the IOC's lead on punishment, the rest of the changes you make won't be very effective.

4 comments:

J-bo said...

Baseball's lax attitude on steroids is unacceptable. The only effective policy, which should start immediately, is a lifetime ban from the sport and a removal of all records from the history books if a player is definitively proven to be using. Anything less, besides endangering the players' healths and setting a terrible role model for children, will continue the unfair performance gap ruining the sport.

zekejennings said...

j-bo,

Although I agree with your hard-stance policy, it is a bit too extreme. A lifetime ban for one offense in anything, with the exception of perhaps first-degree murder, is inconsistent with what is American. People deserve a second chance.

What should happen is something inbetween what is current policy and what you suggested. Perhaps an 80-game ban (half a season) without pay, which follows with weekly tests for at least two years thereafter. Also, a monetary penalty for teams who have a player that tests positive for a second, or worse, offense.

Tyler Hampton said...

I think a full season ban for the first time use and a lifetime ban for the second use. For someone who has tested positive for steroids of any kind along with their season ban, they should get at least monthly, if not bi-monthly check ups for the rest of their career. I think that this should deter any players from doing it once and if they do it will definitely stop it a second time.

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