Monday, July 29, 2013

PEDS: Are Some Players Innocent, After All?

JULY 29th, 2013-The PED/Steroid/HGH scandal in professional baseball has been raging on for the past 6 years, now, not taking into account the years before it came to light in the public eye. 

In 2007, things came to a Congressional head with the Mitchell Report. MLB stars found themselves in front of a Senate sub-committee defending their actions (or lack, thereof) over recent years in the game. So named for the man who commissioned the report, US Senator from Maine George J. Mitchell, it comprised 409 pages and God-knows-how-many taxpayer dollars when it was finally complete. Released in December of '07 to the press (and eventually the public), it brought to light the misdeeds of many a star player:

Representative Dan Burton (R-Indiana) grilled Brian McNamee, former "trainer" for Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte and (apparently) an avid collector of used gauze pads and needles, over his confusing and sometimes-misleading testimony. Sammy Sosa forgot how to speak English, after what I can only assume was a minor brain hemorrhage affecting the speech centers of his brain. Jose Canseco got his 15 minutes, while various representatives tried to knock that huge chip off his shoulder. 

And former star Rafael Palmeiro wagged his finger sternly when asked if he had ever used performance-enhancing drugs. 

Then we come to New York Yankees pariah Alex Rodriguez. Peter Gammons spoke with A-Rod concerning the lies in which he was caught: 

"Back then, it was a different culture. It was very loose", said the embattled former shoe-in for the Hall, speaking as much truth in that one statement as anyone prior to him had even considered saying. 

He's right. It WAS a different culture. Steroids were used by many, many players, in open defiance of the league's 'regulations' concerning banned substances. Well, that's not entirely true: MLB really didn't have a process in place to address the use of PEDs. It was, in that sense, and in the sense that anyone with a pair of eyes and a functioning brain could see what was going on, encouraged by the powers-that-be. These are the same powers who then came to the game's 'rescue', attacking the epidemic of illegal PED use which had pervaded the game, doing their level best to save face while appeasing the MLBPA at the same time. 

Looking back on A-Rod's interview, something always stuck with me:

"There are substances in GNC right now which could trigger a positive result" on a urine test, he said. I always wondered what it was he meant, specifically. 

Well, as it turns out, and as much as I hate to admit it, he was right. In fact, he was more 'right' than he may have known, at the time. 

The FDA reported on Saturday that a Vitamin B supplement sold by GNC does indeed contain two controlled substances: 

"...Healthy Life Chemistry By Purity First B-50, contains methasterone, a controlled substance, and dimethazine, the Food and Drug Administration said."

Let me clarify that statement: a Vitamin B supplement showed positive (in preliminary tests) for methasterone (an anabolic steroid), and dimethazine, which is essentially a precursor of methasterone. B vitamins. And steroids. 

How many times have we heard that a player didn't take steroids, but actually only took a B vitamin? They then blame their positive test on said vitamin. According to the early reports from the FDA, some of them could be telling the truth. 

Adding to the problem is the fact that vitamins and herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA. What this means, in short, is that there could be ANYTHING at all in that multi-vitamin or gingko capsule. Like the man said, "You pays yer money and you takes yer chance". This should be the official slogan of any company who produces an unregulated, nebulous (and sometimes dangerous) product for public consumption. 

So what are the legal implications of this latest development for the players who have had to suffer this embarrassment? What recourse do they now have? And how would a player prove that their positive tests were directly related to the use of these 'vitamins'? Even accounting for those who used PEDs knowingly, how would a player who was unknowingly using a banned substance ever clear his name?

While we await the fallout over this latest revelation, there is no doubt that this can and likely will change the current strategies in professional sports' battle against PEDs. 

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