Stuck in the middle on steroid use

As the Toronto Blue Jays look toward their spring training opener on Feb. 26 against the New York Yankees, there’s already one good thing to be said for Canada’s team: given its recent record, it is unlikely even the best Jays will be accused of steroid use.

This may be a little dismissive of Alex Rios, whom I quite like. But even with an adequate RBI total of 79 last year, he’s just not a candidate to be a ‘roid user.

Last September, the Jays missed out on American League wild card contention despite completing their third-consecutive winning season. That’s 86 wins, 76 losses for a .531 winning percentage. Not ‘roid worthy.

But while the Jays remain pure, the Yankees are not. In particular one Alex Rodriguez, third baseman. After denying he ever used steroids, A-Rod was sort of pushed into honesty by a Sports Illustrated expose, which said he did. In 2003 in a random check, he showed positive.

“I was young,” said A-Rod, 33, in a recent mea culpa interview, “and stupid.” Not young enough. He was 28 at the time. And he evidently used steroids over a period of three years while with the Texas Rangers.

He insists he has not touched a ‘roid since moving to the Yankees and so far, it seems unlikely he will face any Major League Baseball sanctions or federal prosecution for performance enhancement. Maybe he’ll lose an endorsement or two, but with a $275-million deal, he should care?

And that’s the question. Should we care either? If major league sports – baseball, hockey, basketball and football – are not prepared to ban players who use performance-enhancing drugs, then what are the consequences? The deterrents?

Sure, A-Rod – along with Mark McGwire, Roger Clemens and others – will be a little late getting into the baseball Hall of Fame. And Barry Bonds may yet be found criminally guilty.

But after the usual people say the usual things about what a bad role model A-Rod is, he’ll report to spring training as usual.

Meanwhile, Canada looks forward to the 2010 Olympics, during which stringent tests will be used in an effort to ensure the participants are clean. Some sinners will be sent home and some will inevitably squeak through, thanks perhaps to new and as-yet undetectable drugs.

Even the great sport of chess, which hopes to get into the Olympics, is taking steroid use seriously. Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk recently refused to submit a drug test at the Chess Olympiad in Germany.

He could have faced a two-year ban.

The point is that at the Olympics, the public will get to see that testing is being done and that the punishment is immediate. And we either set up an effective drug testing program across all sports, or we shrug our collective shoulders.

I’m talking about performance-enhancing drugs here. I don’t give a damn if a Michael Phelps is caught sucking on a bong or if Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati smoked weed.

Right now, there is a huge inconsistency in the way we look at the use of enhancement drugs. Bad, really bad, in the Olympics. Surely nobody uses steroids in hockey. There might be one or two players in basketball and football. Well, OK, so quite a few seem to have used some stuff in baseball. And we ought to do something about that. Next year.

And yes, I and a whole ton of my fellow Canadians will watch the Jays in their spring training opener against the Yankees on Feb. 26.


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Chess Daily News from Susan Polgar
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