Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another one bites the dust

It is not easy being a baseball fan these days. Every time it looks like the game is distancing itself from the steroids era, another controversy hits it right between the eyes.

The latest scandal was the suspension of Los Angeles Dodgers' outfielder Manny Ramirez for 50 games because of a drug violation. Ramirez chose not to appeal the suspension and will not return to the team until early July.

He claimed this violation was a result of medication prescribed for him by his personal physician. The medication included contents that are banned by Major League Baseball's drug policy, and he failed to verify whether the contents were acceptable or not.

According to published reports, the drug he tested positive for was the female fertility drug HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin.

A female fertility drug? This may seem like a wacky way to flunk a drug test, but some experts state the drug is used by steroid users because it can limit the side effects of stopping a drug cycle.

So, fans have to make up their own minds whether to believe Ramirez made a simple mistake or was trying to cover other possible drug usage.

The real shame is that Ramirez's achievements will never be looked at the same way again. With more than 500 career home runs, he is easily one of the best sluggers of the last 50 years.

Additionally, one of the reasons he is such a popular player is because he is so likeable. In an age where star players make tens of millions of dollars, there is a goofiness to his personality that shines through and people have responded to it.

True, he took a public relations' hit for the way he weaseled himself into a trade that sent him to Los Angeles from Boston. However, he seems to love L.A., and the feeling was mutual out there before this mess.

On the positive side, his suspension shows baseball is serious about cleaning up its drug problem. Ramirez is the first superstar to be hit with a 50-game suspension since baseball toughened its testing standards.

Until now, only some role players had received a suspension, and there was a concern baseball executives would be hesitant to drop the hammer on a big name. Skeptics can now drop their concerns.

Of course, this has happened while the media spotlight continues to shine on New York Yankees' third baseman Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez admitted a few months ago that he used steroids while he was a member of the Texas Rangers.

Rodriguez is clearly the best player in professional baseball. For years, it was believed he had never used the juice, and Major League Baseball placed a lot of its hopes on him to lead the sport out of the steroids era.

This will not happen now. Even if he breaks Barry Bonds' all-time home run record, his achievements will be belittled the way Bonds' statistics have been. Though he never was suspended for steroids use, Bonds has been accused and investigated for the last several years regarding possible usage.

Though Ramirez and Rodriguez have lost a lot because of their decisions, the real losers are the youth of America. Teenage athletes have grown up watching player after player get exposed for drug use.

The temptation for them is obvious. If the athletes they idolize are doing this to get a competitive edge, why shouldn't they do it? It is part of our human nature to believe we can get away with something even when others are caught.

Let's hope they won't make a mistake they will regret.

1 comment:

Larry J. said...

Stuff like this makes you appreciate Willie Mays, Aaron, all the more.