illustration by Samara Pearlstein
So I suppose we all know by now that Alex Rodriguez has admitted to using steroids. Paws knows there’s nothing much going on in the Big Cat World right now, so we may as well talk about it.
A few things stood out in this whole glorious, glorious mess. First of all, A-Rod claims he had no idea what he was taking, blaming youth and naiveté and baseball’s acceptance of Mr. Met’s giant steroid-enhanced head for his unquestioning use of whatever he was given. A-Rod was 25 when he got to Texas (which is when he claims his steroid use began) and had already been in the big leagues for 7 years (five full years). Naive? OK…
He also never says where he got it, even though Peter Gammons specifically asks. This is despite the fact that according to reports he tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan, the latter being an anabolic steroid that is illegal in the US. Not questioning something your doctor or team trainer gives you, that I can understand, but the likelihood of A-Rod getting this stuff from a doctor or team trainer is pretty low, as it can’t be prescribed in the US. I reckon that he evaded this question (the only one, I think, that he straight-up sidestepped) for one of two reasons:
–to avoid implicating someone else… perhaps another player? We’ve seen how popular that sort of thing made Canseco,
–to avoid shedding light on the obviously illegal channels through which he acquired the stuff, which would make it clear that he knew at the time that what he was doing was wrong. This is something that he has basically denied; he repeats over and over that he was stupid, that he was negligent, but the implication is still that, at the time, he thought whatever he was taking was on some level delicious chemical rightness. This is reinforced by his repeated mentions of GNC and the fact that there are things players could get there that would show up on a drug test. Prior to serious steroid testing in MLB, there are few players who would have mistrusted something they bought at a mainstream store like GNC. THAT is perhaps naive. It’s hard to claim naiveté when you’re getting stuff through some plainly illegal route.
Primobolan is not something that A-Rod could have purchased at GNC. I guess my point here is that some people are going to applaud A-Rod for “coming clean” about his steroid use. Even if you set aside his point-blank lie in his 2007 interview with Katie Couric (“Have you ever used a steroid or performance enhancing substance?” “No.” Wah wahhhhh), the fact is that he’s not coming completely clean even now. He saw what happened to Roger Clemens; he (and Scott Boras) knew that he had to admit that he used at the very least. This isn’t really something to commend.
Now, as Tigers fans, what do we care? We already know that having a steroid user on the team doesn’t much affect our day-to-day fandom. I don’t think there’s anyone still delusional enough to believe that Gary Sheffield didn’t use some sort of PED (with the possible exception of Gary Sheffield himself), but if the Tigers needed a big hit and Sheff was at the plate, fans rooted for him, no question.
And, of course, we’ve had plenty of time to recover from the pain of the Nook Logan steroid use revelations– although o! how deeply did they wound us!!
Here’s the thing. One of the things? Here’s A Thing. The positive that snagged A-Rod was one of 104 positive results in a supposedly anonymous 2003 test. Now, despite everything I said above, and despite the fact that I’m not an A-Rod fan for a variety of other, mostly shameless Red Soxian reasons, I do think it’s pure coprolites that his name came out here.
If the test was anonymous it should have friggin’ stayed anonymous. How on earth are they going to get players to submit to anonymous testing for anything else if they know there’s a chance it won’t truly be anonymous at some point down the unethical Road of Ha Ha, Got You Now?
And if names are, for whatever reason, going to come out, it is COMPLETELY unfair that A-Rod’s is the only one we’re hearing. There are 104 players involved here. Maybe none of the others are big, Madonna-humpin’ names. Maybe they’re 103 Fernando Vinas. Maybe some of them tested positive for substances that DID come from places like GNC, substances that were more ambiguous in legality at the time.
I know, I know. On some level, a lot of us don’t even really care anymore. We can recognize that there’s unfairness on all sides: acceptable supplement guidelines are not clearly explained to the players (especially the non-English-speaking players), anonymous testing is anonymous in name only, the development of new undetectable PEDs continues to outpace MLB’s ability to test for them, players are apologetic about cheating only when they’re caught, and on and on and on. And, like I said, on an everyday, ‘this dude is playing for the team I desperately want to win because I am a rabid fan’ level, it’s hard to give a rat’s pelvis.
Still. Just imagine your favorite Tiger in A-Rod’s position. Not the greatest feeling, is it?
I have rambled far afield (as is my wont). Tigers fans, and indeed all baseball fans, should care at least a little bit about A-Rod– and Clemens, and Pettitte, and Giambi, and McGwire, and Sheffield, and Brian Roberts, and Rafael Palmeiro, and Alex Sánchez, and Barry Bonds, and Nook friggin’ Logan. Why? Because if we don’t care, that’s just one more reason for these guys to keep on being naive. They’re going to carry on with the boo hoo hoo stupidity.
The prospect of Trial by Court of Public Opinion isn’t going to stop a player who’s determined to cheat his balls off (literally). But if we deride the snot out of guys like A-Rod, maybe, just maybe, somewhere down the line a couple of players will start thinking twice before slathering themselves with sketchily-obtained creams.