Baseball’s hope heading into the season surely had to be that the end of the Barry Bonds home run chase would bring an end to daily mentions of performance-enhancing drugs in the sport.
The pennant races, the playoffs, the emergence of young stars and the absence of Bonds as a national story line, the game’s keepers surely assumed, would make everyone forget about the off-the-field dirt that’s been soiling big-league ball for years.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans, though. Last week’s bombshells regarding former World Series MVP Troy Glaus and former feel-good king Rick Ankiel and their involvement in an online steroid-human growth hormone distribution ring reopened the can of worms that is baseball’s drug problem.
And the lid to that can isn’t going back on any time soon. The investigation that implicated Glaus and Ankiel will continue to produce new names, and there’s a pretty good chance that the names of more than 20 players who frequented the clubhouse pharmacy run by a former New York Mets employee will be revealed in the very near future.
Oh, and the Mitchell Report is due out this fall. Good times.
So what can baseball and its players, who are now quite clearly all guilty until proven innocent, do to stem the tidal wave of negative publicity? It’s pretty simple, really.
Stop saying you have the toughest drug testing program in professional sports and adopt the same program that goes on at the Olympic level.
Implementing steroids testing was a Band-Aid for baseball, at best. A step in the right direction, to be sure, but nowhere close to convincing knowledgeable cynics that the game is clean.
It might be clean of steroids — might being the key word — because we all know the best chemists are always ahead of testers. But until the public feels like the issue of HGH and the like are being at least addressed, the perception will be that the game is merely a different kind of dirty now than it was when players were on ’roids.
The problem is that busting an HGH user requires testing blood, and the players have long fought such testing. Let’s hope this recent rash of revelations changes their tune on that score.
This is on the players. If they want us to think they’re legit, submit to any and all drug testing, including tests for recreational drugs.
If they don’t, we have every right to disbelieve everything we see on the field.
Mychael Urban is the author of “Aces: The Last Season On The Mound With The Oakland A’s Big Three — Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder and Barry Zito” and a writer for MLB.com. He also hosts the weekend edition of “Sportsphone 680” on KNBR (680 AM).