Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rashard Lewis' apology right on the money


Thursday was not a good day for Rashard Lewis, Orlando Magic small forward.

The man who helped the Magic to the NBA Finals was suspended by the NBA for 10 games for testing positive for an elevated level of testosterone.

But Thursday was also a good day for Lewis, in that he went about facing the suspension in the right way — and next spring, when the Magic are battling in the playoffs, no one will give a flying hoot about the suspension or even remember, for that matter, that the dude had some extra testosterone.

And if Lewis has a long, successful career, I doubt Thursday will keep him from being strongly considered for the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

If only baseball players, the whole lot of the accused, could look at Lewis' reaction to his positive test, get a "Back to the Future" car, and unravel all the damage they've done to their careers and legacies through lies and denials.

Lewis, unlike countless famous sluggers, came out and said exactly what happened — he took an over-the-counter supplement late last season that contained a substance he didn't know was banned by the league.

I, for one, believe his explanation.

What he did, of course, was extremely stupid. Any professional athlete worth millions should know about the risks associated with making such a purpose. Heck, they should just stay away from over-the-counter supplements, period.

But Lewis bit the bullet, swallowed his pride, and admitted his fault. And that will, no doubt, help him in the court of public opinion. Once he's served his suspension, people will quickly forget about what happened.

He's helped by the NBA's reputation of being a PEDs-free league. We only hear, really, about maybe one player a year, usually a bit player, testing positive for something. Lewis is the biggest-name guy who's been named.

Because of the league's rep, it's easier to believe that Lewis didn't know exactly what he was doing. And it's easier to accept that his apology is genuine, unlike the crap we hear from most baseball players.

"I hope every athlete can learn from my mistake that supplements, no matter how innocent they seem, should only be taken after consulting an expert in the field," Lewis said in his statement.

Warning other athletes? Not hiding behind his agent?

It's a new approach that we haven't seen from baseball players.

Let's not forget that when Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez and others were taking supplements, the PEDs weren't banned by Major League Baseball. If they had just come out and admitted what they'd done and said it was wrong, that they made a mistake, they might not be in such hot water with hordes of baseball fans, not to mention Hall of Fame voters.

That's what lying and denying will do.

Rashard Lewis doesn't deserve a free pass on this one. That's why he's getting docked 10 games, or $1.6 million.

But his solid reputation should remain intact, as will the NBA's as a mostly PEDs-free league (for now), thanks in part to how he handled making an error in judgment.

If only baseball's steroid users had taken a similar approach, they might not be so reviled. Their mistakes might, actually, be distant memories.

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