Ivan's Blog

Featuring Ivan Trembow's Self-Important, Random Rants on Mixed Martial Arts, Video Games, Pro Wrestling, Television, Politics, Sports, and High-Quality Wool Socks

Wednesday, August 03, 2005
Sports--- Steroids, Rafael Palmeiro, The Same Old Story, Leprechauns, and Baseball's Holding Pattern
Steroids are back in the headlines with Baltimore Orioles star Rafael Palmeiro having been suspended for violating Major League Baseball's steroids policy. More than anyone else, it was Palmeiro who came out of the Congressional steroids hearings in March with the best public image. While Mark McGwire repeatedly said that he wasn't there "to talk about the past," and Sammy Sosa hilariously relied on a Spanish interpreter after he magically forgot how to speak English, Rafael Palmeiro was consistent and firm as he pointed his index finger at the Congressional panel and said, "I have never, ever used steroids in my life."

The Timeline of Events with Palmeiro, and the Steroid That was Found in His Body
After Palmeiro was called a steroid user in Jose Canseco's book when it was released in February, and after emphatically denying that he had ever used steroids at the Congressional hearings in March, the complete timeline of events with Palmeiro has only become clear in the past week. Following an extremely slow start in April, Palmeiro's batting average and home-run output shot up drastically in May. We now know that May was the month in which Palmeiro took a steroids test that would come back positive.

Palmeiro was notified about the positive test in early June, and he started an appeals process at that time. In July, Palmeiro celebrated the huge milestone of his 3,000th career hit, in what now seems like a dirty and perverse celebration since Palmeiro knew at the time that he had just tested positive for steroids. Finally, Palmeiro's appeal was denied and his suspension was handed down (and thus made public) on the first day of August.

The illegal steroid that was found in Rafael Palmeiro's body was Stanozolol, which is best known for being the steroid that Olympic track and field star Ben Johnson was caught using in 1988. Stanozolol was also the steroid that was found in MMA fighter Kimo Leopoldo's body after a match in 2004, and in Tim Sylvia's body after a UFC fight in 2003, and in Fernando Vargas' system after a boxing match in 2002. Also in 2002, Stanozolol was one of the three different kinds of steroids that were found in the body of MMA fighter Josh Barnett. James Toney tested positive for steroids after winning a boxing match earlier this year, although in Toney's case the steroid found in his system was not Stanozolol; it was Nandrolone.

The Same Old Story from Someone Caught Red-Handed, and a Possible Explanation
The story given by Rafael Palmeiro when the news broke of his steroid suspension was the same story given by almost everyone who has ever tested positive for steroids, essentially saying, "Golly gee, I have no idea how such a high quantity of steroids could have gotten into my system! I certainly didn't put them there!"

As I wrote back in 2002 during the height of Josh Barnett's lies when he was caught with an extraordinary amount of steroids in his system, it's almost as if these athletes expect the public to believe that a Magical Steroid-Wielding Leprechaun is going around injecting people with steroid shots, against their will and without their knowledge.

As far as I know, if you're looking for a case of someone standing up like a man upon testing positive and admitting what he did, the only two prominent cases are MMA fighters Tim Sylvia and Kimo. New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi falls somewhere in the middle of the "accountability" pack, as he admitted in front of a California Grand Jury that he knowingly took steroids for years, but then hid behind non-existent, invalid legal reasons that he said prevented him from talking about the situation in front of the media. The vast majority of offenders take the cowardly approach of continuing to lie, even in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Apparently, what we're supposed to believe is that Fernando Vargas and James Toney must have been victims of the Magical Steroid-Wielding Leprechaun. Barry Bonds, according to his own Grand Jury testimony that was published in the San Francisco Chronicle, took illegal steroids but claimed to have done so unintentionally, so perhaps the Leprechaun got to him as well. Mark McGwire, if he had been man enough to admit at the Congressional hearings that he took steroids instead of pleading the Fifth Amendment and refusing to answer the questions, would have surely said it was unintentional and blamed it on something equivalent to the Magical Steroid-Wielding Leprechaun.

Rafael Palmeiro? A victim of the Magical Steroid-Wielding Leprechaun. Ryan Franklin, the Major League Baseball pitcher whose steroid suspension came down exactly one day after Palmeiro's? The Leprechaun did it. And Josh Barnett? He must have been the victim of an entire family of Magical Steroids-Wielding Leprechauns, as his toxicology results showed that he was practically a walking steroids pharmacy when he failed his drug test in March of 2002.

Baseball's Penalties (or Lack Thereof) for Positive Steroids Tests
With Rafael Palmeiro and Ryan Franklin being suspended this week, the number of Major League Baseball players who have tested positive for steroids this year is now up to eight. As with any drug-testing program, you're only going to catch a small percentage of the people who are taking banned substances. So, if there have been eight positive test results so far this season, there have probably been at least 80 players who "beaten the system" via various methods.

It's an understatement to say that baseball's punishments for positive test results are a joke. While superstar players like Rafael Palmeiro stand to face the de-facto punishment of public scrutiny and media attention for their positive test results, a non-superstar player like Ryan Franklin only faces one day of newspaper headlines and a ten-day suspension. That's it.

Even with a stubborn, obstructionist union chief like Donald Fehr having worked hard for years to stunt the progress of any steroid-testing in baseball, MLB commissioner Bud Selig still lacks the political willpower to stand up and do something about it. When Donald Fehr says ridiculous things with a straight face, like his claim that drug-testing of players brings up "privacy issues," Selig doesn't have the willpower to call Fehr on his bluff and respond with something like, "Players have a right to 'privacy' to take substances that are illegal in the United States?"

Selig has proposed a much tougher punishment system that would suspend a player 50 games for his first positive drug test and 100 games for a second offense, followed by a lifetime ban for a third offense. That seems reasonable to me, and is far better than the current system.

If there was ever a week during which Selig could have stood up and demanded that the union allow these tougher penalties to go into effect, it would have been this week. The fans, the media, and even most players would have been on Selig's side, and Fehr would have had no choice other than to retreat with his tail between his legs and allow the tougher punishments for players who test positive in the future.

Instead, because Selig doesn't have the testicular fortitude to play hardball with Fehr in public, Selig hasn't said a word about the situation this week. This has made Selig look particularly bad, as the media wonders why he won't come out from his under his desk and say something about the situation.

The Sad Irony for Major League Baseball
Ironically, due to the fact that Major League Baseball is unlikely to ever implement tougher steroids punishments as long as Bud Selig and Donald Fehr are in the same holding pattern, the possibility is growing larger that the United States Congress will pass a law that imposes the punishments of the World Anti-Doping Agency on baseball players who test positive for steroids. The powers-that-be in baseball would have no choice but to comply, due to the anti-trust exemptions that they enjoy under the law as a controlled monopoly.

Under the World Anti-Doping Agency system, a baseball player would be suspended for two years after one positive test result, and would be banned for life if he ever tested positive again. If this system is forced onto baseball, it would make Selig's proposed punishments look like a slap on the wrist by comparison, and it would be an absolute nightmare for the union. Nice job, Mr. Fehr.