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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Congress K's Juicing?
by Hal Vickery

Once again Major League Baseball has been called before a Congressional committee, and once again Major League Baseball limps away looking for all the world like a bunch of boobs.

The last time MLB faced Congress, Commissioner Budlight presented the committee with a set of cooked books that purportedly showed that all but a couple of MLB franchises were losing money and that the only possible solution was to contract by two teams. After that sorry performance more than one congressman came one step short of accusing the Commish of perjury.

Since then one of the two teams up for contraction, the Minnesota Twins, has dominated the AL Central while the other, the Montreal Expos, have become the Washington Nationals and at least for now seem destined to make a profit, which means a profit for the other 29 teams in MLB since they are all co-owners of the franchise.

Now the issue is the use of steroids by an unknown number of major league players. This time it wasn’t just MLB, Inc. that came off looking like idiots. This time there was room enough for the Players Association and a number of past and present superstars of the game showed they could look every bit as stupid as Budlight.

Among the people who walked away from the hearing with any dignity were the parents of children who thought that their only ticket to their dreams of major league stardom was the use of performance enhancing drugs. The ticket for these children ended up to be a one-way trip to the cemetery, and their parents put the blame solely where it lies, on the shoulders of the players who use illegal drugs to obtain an edge over their competition.

Other than the parents, the only others who came out of the hearing room deserving any kind of respect were the doctors who simply gave the facts as to the effects of steroids and Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox. One could almost add Curt Schilling to the list simply because he opposes the use of steroids, but his testimony sounded as if he were trying to make excuses for MLB’s complete lack of ethics or morality in dealing with this issue.

Thomas, testifying by video conference only gave a prepared statement and sat around for the rest of the session, completely ignored by the congressmen in Washington. However, he was cited for his longtime opposition to the use of steroids and named to an advisory committee formed by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.). (This citation was, of course, ignored by the Chicago media, as pointed out in a WSI news story by George Bova. If you wanted to hear about this, you had to read the New York Times.)

Some of the lowlights from the hearings:

• Commissioner Budlight’s stating that he was in favor of a zero tolerance policy and then hedging when asked if that meant even superstars would be banned from the game.

• The Commissioner’s trying to place all the blame on the MLBPA’s president Donald Fehr for the lack of a strict policy on steroids while failing to bring up the blind eye he and the owners turned to the sudden bulking up of players.

• The inability of MLB to present or explain the language of the new drug testing program which, depending on who you listen to may or may not provide for suspensions or fines to violators. One MLB representative was called out by a committee member for testimony that directly contradicted a statement about that policy on a nationally broadcast radio program just the day before.

• Jose Canseco’s testimony that he will do everything in his power to stop the spread of steroids despite statements in his recent book that steroid use by athletes was the wave of the future.

• Curt Schilling, who hedged on previous statements that steroid use in baseball was rampant.

• Sammy Sosa’s need for an interpreter because he suddenly doesn’t understand enough English to go without one, but then whose prepared statement was so finely parsed as to leave open the interpretation that he took steroids or other performance enhancing drugs by topical use rather tan by ingestion or injection, or at least that he may have injected such drugs in a country in which their use isn’t illegal.

• Mark McGwire, the biggest loser of all, who took the fifth amendment without actually invoking it by saying that he doesn’t “want to talk about the past,” and then compounded the damage by refusing to even admit that the use of steroids was cheating.

• The House of Representatives even conducting these hearings when it’s pretty obvious that nothing will ever come of them.

It was a sorry demonstration for just about everybody. One can’t help but feel sorry for those parents who testified about the children they lost as a result of steroid use. They probably actually had some hope that something might come from their public airing of their grief.

However, as long as unions, lawyers, and politics are involved, all they can hope for is that someone, somewhere, heard their stories and maybe will do something to stop a teenager from pursuing a dream of athletic stardom through the use of performance enhancing drugs because it is obvious they won’t get any help from Major League Baseball, the players or Congress.

Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

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