alex rodriguez steroids, a-rod steroids, baseball and steroids

In Wake of A-Rod Steroids News, What’s Next for Baseball?

February 08, 2009 01:17 PM
by Emily Coakley
A report about Alex Rodriguez testing positive in 2003 surprised some, disappointed many, and is widely seen as baseball’s latest of many damaging disgraces.

Reports of Positive Test Cast Doubt on A-Rod’s Achievements

With just days before spring training begins, baseball is reeling from a Sports Illustrated report that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. Rodriguez, who is playing for the New York Yankees now, was on the Texas Rangers when he took the positive test. That same year Rodriguez led the American League in home runs and won his first Most Valuable Player award.

Rodriguez had no comment on the leaked report, which said that he was among 104 players who had a positive result in Major League Baseball-sponsored testing. The results were supposed to be confidential, but federal authorities investigating various steroid-related crimes were able to get the test results from the league. The sources who told Sports Illustrated about Rodriguez weren’t identified.

Allegations of steroid use have plagued baseball for more than a decade and tainted many of the sport’s big names. A Congressional report issued last year accused Rodriguez’s Yankee teammates Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte of using performance-enhancing drugs.

In fact, scandals involving performance-enhancing drugs in sports have become so prevalent that any great achievement is met with some skepticism, such as the new 100-meter dash record Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt set in May.

Still, though Rodriguez has certainly had his detractors among the media and fans, most observers believed him to be clean of the taint of baseball’s steroid problem. As the surprise, skepticism, and disgust subsided, talk quickly turned to what the news means for the man, the team, and the game itself.

Opinion & Analysis: A-Rod, the Yankees, and baseball’s future

The A-Rod revelations, for those who don’t follow the sport, are shocking to the people who saw Rodriguez as “The Natural amid all the syringes,” as the Miami Herald said.

Todd Jones, a pitcher who recently retired from baseball and took one of the drug tests in 2003, even went so far as to suggest that someone could have sabotaged A-Rod’s test. But Jones focused mostly on some larger issues.

“It makes you wonder why people continue to dig and dig,” Jones writes in The Sporting News. “To watch people crumble?”

Jones said older players who didn’t use steroids “are fighting the stigma of being tied to the steroid era. They are losing jobs to young guys who have been around since real testing started.”

Tommy Marcus, writing on the Bleacher Report, said Alex Rodriguez was always supposed to be the “clean player, [who] would break the Home Run record of Barry Bonds, and set baseball straight.”

He was “the hope for baseball,” Marcus said, adding, “Now, the game of baseball is looking at a downward slope that is unlikely to turn uphill for a long time.”

But Rick Tetlander of the Chicago Sun-Times said fans shouldn’t be surprised. “You should know, if you’ve been paying attention, that baseball players lie as easily as they field grounders. There is no sport—none, not even golf—that should be perceived as being ‘clean.’

Fox Sports writer Ed Price examined the fallout the A-Rod allegations could have on the Yankees. He predicts that the team’s staff could spend most of the season to “find a way to keep A-Rod focused on the field. And this is the most delicate psyche in the Yankees clubhouse.”

Price also points out that “a disproportionate number of players publicly linked to performance-enhancing drugs have worn pinstripes.” Though it doesn’t make the team ownership “enablers or suppliers,” he says, it does suggest they were willing to ignore any suspicions they might have had while pursuing big names.

“Then again,” Price asks, “does that make the Yankees different from any other franchise?”

Related Topic: Bonds’ and Clemens’ criminal cases proceed

Former Major League stars Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens are each currently the subject of perjury cases relating to their testimony that they never took banned performance-enhancing drugs. The cases against both athletes are supported by samples from 2000 and 2001, but there are many legal questions over the reliability and admissibility of the evidence, findingDulcinea reported last week.

U.S. District Court Judge Susan Illston on Feb. 4 unsealed hundreds of pages of court documents detailing the federal government’s case against retired slugger Barry Bonds. At the heart of the case are urine samples taken in 2000 and 2001 by the BALCO laboratory that tested positive for the steroids methenelone and nandrolone.

A similar piece of evidence is at the center of the perjury investigation into retired pitcher Roger Clemens, who testified to Congress last February that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. On Tuesday The Washington Post reported that, according to anonymous sources, syringes allegedly used to inject Clemens with steroids from 2000 to 2001 have tested positive for Clemens’ DNA.

If the DNA tests on the syringes are verified, and if the syringes are found to contain traces of steroids or human growth hormone, Clemens could face perjury charges.

Both ballplayers’ legal teams argued that the samples should be inadmissable because of their age and the possibility that they had become tainted in the time since they were first obtained.

Reference: The new generation of performance-enhancing substances

Despite public scandals, continued demand for steroids despite public scandals has led those in the business to continue devising new steroids with the goal of making them both more effective and more difficult for current steroids tests to detect.

Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators are the next big thing in chemical performance enhancement, according to a Baseball Prospectus interview with an unnamed person described as being “one of the leading figures in the steroid underground.”

SARMs, as they are known, are chemicals that “bind to the androgen receptor, just like testosterone, and signal the body to build more muscle and strength. It’s like testosterone without the testosterone. Actually, the testosterone analogy is apt, because they’re every bit as effective as [testosterone],” the man, known as Dr. X2, told Baseball Prospectus.

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