This Just In

March 23, 2007, 1:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Articles, Josh J  | 5 Comments

Headline on CNNSI.com — Pro Wrestlers Allegedly Linked To Steroid Ring

Say it ain’t so! Next you’ll be telling me the matches are fixed!

I know America is still only slowly waking up to the reality that mainstream pro athletes use performance-enhancing drugs far more than we once thought. But for anyone still wondering how many pro wrestlers and body builders use steroids, let me help you out:

All of them.

I’m going to go ahead and assume I didn’t shatter anyone’s innocence with that revelation. But let’s revisit the question of our mainstream athletes — what’s going on? Call me jaded, but depending on the sport, I’m pretty sure they’re all using as well. At the very least, I assume anyone accused is probably guilty.

I know we take a great deal of pride in our legal system’s presumption of innocence, but this is not about sending someone to jail, despite the illegality of many of these substances. This is about realizing that tainted nutritional supplements, mishandled samples, false positives, and B12 shots from teammates, although convenient excuses, can’t possibly be responsible every time. In fact, they probably never were.

I understand why we want to believe. Part of the enjoyment of watching these athletes perform hinges on our amazement at their physical abilities, which are far more impressive if they’re natural gifts, not unhealthy chemical upgrades. Sports have also traditionally been imbued with a sense of purity and honor. This is perhaps most true and most troubling in the Olympics; we’re raised to believe in the magic of the Games, but it’s painfully obvious that all the sprinters are doping. We may still want to believe in the records, in the spirit of the Games, but it’s getting more and more implausible. The question is not if they’re juicing, but when and whether they’ll be caught. How long can we even pretend to believe?

Like many sports fans, my disenchantment actually stems from baseball. I was raised by my dad to be a fan of the San Francisco Giants, just as his dad raised him. The first summer I really got into the team was the summer of ’93, the year they had two 20-game winners, a record-setting closer, an MVP masher, and 103 wins, but still missed the playoffs to the hated Braves by one game — the year before the wild card.

It was also the summer of arrival for that MVP masher, Mr. Barry Bonds. We stole him in free agency from the Pittsburgh Pirates, and over the next decade, he almost single-handedly made us contenders every season. He was the best ballplayer of my time, and he played for my team.

But in the late ’90s, at an age when most athletes begin to decline, he saw an otherworldly jump in production, amidst increasing whispers that something foul was afoot. Every Bonds at-bat was a must-see event, every season made me proud to be a Giants fan, even as speculation mounted. As my dad and I clung to our hope and the lack of proof, Bonds kept setting astronomical records, culminating in carrying us to within 5 outs of a 2002 championship we should have won.

Then, in 2003, the BALCO scandal broke, exposing numerous athletes, including Bonds, as probable users. As my dad clung to his last shred of hope that it was a mistake, I experienced a much different and unexpected emotion. I was relieved the Giants lost the World Series; a victory would have been tainted for me.

And so this season I’m left to feel ambivalent about the best player of my lifetime, playing for my favorite team and potentially breaking the most hallowed record in all of sports. With new testing, I’d like to think he’s not juicing now, or that the bulk of his stats amassed before the late-career body change were clean. I still support his case for the Hall of Fame.

But the facts remain — there are people working very hard to stay ahead of drug detection. Athletes can be dirty for years, sometimes even entire careers, and not test positive, so it’s far more likely there are guilty athletes we don’t suspect than that there are innocent athletes we do. I’m sorry, but I’ve just lost my ability to believe.


Comments

5 Comments to “This Just In”

  1. Aarong on March 23rd, 2007 1:47 pm

    Two years before the wild card actually. It was instituted first in ’95. There was a strike in ’94. But I’m letting this slide.

    Go Red Sox.

  2. Steve on March 23rd, 2007 2:09 pm

    Both of you are right. It was instituted in ’94, but first used in ’95.

    Go Yankees.

  3. Job on March 23rd, 2007 2:16 pm

    You’re all wrong.
    Say it with me:

    “GO O’s!”

  4. Josh J on March 23rd, 2007 5:02 pm

    Actually, my initial copy used the phrasing “institution of.” Blame the editor for the misleading correction.

  5. Andrew on March 24th, 2007 7:54 am

    1st guy has it right. Go Red Sox!

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