Commissioners and Controversy
Mark McGwire's Final At Bat [Dec. 5 2006]
Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame voters will pass judgment on the baseball career of Mark McGwire. This vote will be significant because it should give us a barometer of how future voters will treat suspected steroid users. Sammy Sosa, to a lesser degree, and Barry Bonds have also posted Hall of Fame numbers. Their careers, at some point, will be subjected to the HOF vote.
I used the word ’suspected’ when referring to ’steroids users’. Is that correct? Is Mark McGwire really suspected of using performance enhancing drugs? What about Barry Bonds? Sammy?
Sammy Sosa is really the only one of the three who I ’suspect’. It’s difficult to pin any hard evidence to Sammy. As for Barry, there appears to be testimony in the BALCO case which links him, albeit unknowingly, to steroid use. With Mark McGwire, steroid use is neither a rumor nor second-hand information. It’s a fact.
There is no question as to whether Mark McGwire used performance enhancing drugs or not; he did. Roll the clock back to August 1998. A reporter asks about a tube of balm that is sitting on the shelf of McGwire’s locker. McGwire states that it is “andro” (short for androstenedione) which was a nutritional supplement available over-the-counter from both drug and nutritional stores.
At that time, Andro was a substance banned by the National Football League and the International Olympic Committee. Both of these organizations were more proactive about policing their athletes with regard to steroids than Major League Baseball. In 1998, MLB basically took players at their word about anabolic steroid use. Individuals who had been arrested for drug use or drug possession were worked through a rehabilitation program and subjected to periodic drug tests. That was the extent of the MLB drug policy. No baseball players were tested for steroids, so there were no documented incidents of steroid use, until August 1998.
The container of andro in McGwire’s locker was concrete evidence that he was using a performance enhancing drug. The fact that andro wasn’t banned by Major League Baseball doesn’t change that fact. Everybody in the sports world knew about ‘andro’. It was the first prohormone to be used in the sports nutrition industry. Once introduced into the body the prohormones converted into anabolic compounds. It was a fact then and still is a fact today. Everybody knew it. Athletes knew it. The NFL knew it. The IOC knew it. For Major League Baseball, steroid use was an obstacle that stood in the way of financial gain, so the issue was quietly tabled.
Even players in the NFL who were not very knowledgeable about andro shied away from it. As an example, a week prior to the discovery of andro in McGwire’s locker, NY Giant Linebacker Corey Miller considered using andro to help him with a career threatening neck injury. He decided not to use it because in his words, “I turned the bottle over and it said athletes who take it could test positive for steroids.” That was bad news for Corey Miller who could have been subjected to a steroid test by the NFL. It would not have mattered to Mark McGwire who could do anything he wanted to do, as long as he didn’t admit to it.
For decades rumors circulated about the use of steroids and “greenies” in baseball. Books had been written and testimonials were plentiful about drug and steroid use in the locker rooms of Major League Baseball. But never before was the evidence clear for the entire world to see. McGwire supplied all the evidence that would ever be needed to prove he was using performance-enhancing drugs by simply displaying the performance-enhancing drug.
In my opinion, Mark McGwire should not be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This opportunity, his final at bat, should be scored as a ‘K’. The truth is he shouldn’t even be in the batter’s box.
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