You don’t have to be a sports fan these days to know that performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) are becoming as much the story as the actual games. Who can forget Lance Armstrong confessing to Oprah? In case you missed this bit, one of the strategies Lance employed to beat drug tests was the sophisticated and time tested maneuver of simply hiding when the drug testers showed up.
As cyclists engaged in a very high stakes game of hide-and-go-seek, when it comes to PEDs in sports our society mostly focuses on baseball. It could be the hallowed records, or how in contrast chemically enhanced players are to baseball’s carefree history of being “the boys of summer”. Or it could be how proud Commissioner Bud Selig is of his legacy against PEDS.
In 2006, Commissioner Selig implemented The Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program and talked about getting tough on cheaters. Baseball started randomly drug testing players and doling out penalties: 50 games for a first offender, 100 games for a second offender, and a lifetime ban for a third time offender. Not exactly zero tolerance, but each year we see a handful of major league players get suspended. Clearly there has been a policy and it appears to be working, and Selig has not been shy about trumpeting this.
A few weeks ago Commissioner Selig suspended Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez (A-Rod) and a few others for Human Growth Hormone (HGH). But this time, Selig really wanted to drop the hammer and show how little tolerance baseball has for both HGH and for second time cheaters like A-Rod, who had admitted to using steroids before 2006. So on August 9, Selig suspended A-Rod for 211 games, well over a year.
Selig chose two guys whom the public really enjoys seeing punished. Braun could be a finalist in being the biggest liar of all time, as here he earnestly promises that he would “bet my life that this substance never entered my body”. And as ridiculous as this video may be, it pales in comparison to the A-Rod saga.
There is one more fact Selig shared while building up his legacy in January, 2013, although in this case, he was really slipping a dirty little secret through the media. And not only slipping it through, but spinning it as a great accomplishment for his legacy. The problem is that this little secret ruins everything for him. While proudly saying how comprehensive drug testing will be this year, he shared the big news that Major League Baseball (MLB) will finally start testing for HGH this year!
Wait….I say what?
You mean, Commissioner, that for the past 6 years of your drug program, you have not been testing for HGH?
And, the players knew this going into their tests? Talk about an effective cheat sheet for a test.
HGH is deemed by MLB bad enough that someone is being suspended for 211 games for using it, and yet for the last six years, baseball has never tested one person for this drug. The reason is that testing for HGH requires a blood test, and the players union has prevented any blood tests from taking place.
As comical as the image of a bunch of world class cyclers in spandex hiding behind couches may be, at least these cyclers knew they had a challenging test to pass.
Selig would much prefer to just focus on suspending the few major leaguers per year he can, demonstrating action to the public. Each time a major leaguer gets suspended he is publicly humiliated and banished from having any real chance at baseball immortality –except for being known as a cheater. If a few guys are dirty, then by contrast everybody else looks clean.