Cloud of suspicion
By now, you should have come to grips with the fact that Alex Rodriguez took steroids, if you were even surprised to hear the news in the first place.
It's come to the point where baseball fans have gone from shocked and outraged, to anxious and disappointed, upon hearing the next name in what seems to be a never-ending list of Major League Baseball players who used performance-enhancing drugs. A-Rod is the latest casualty, but you can't tell me you were stunned when you heard his name.
That's the sad part. The best all-around player in the game, Rodriguez was relied upon to eventually break the all-time home run record, and to do it in a different fashion than Barry Bonds. But that's all changed since SI.com reported A-Rod was one of 104 players on a list of positive tests for performance-enhancing drugs during survey testing in 2003.
But yet, there's no surprise. That's what this has come down to. The biggest name in the sport, busted for steroids, but nobody's shocked. Even before the Mitchell Report came out, everybody had their unofficial list of players that "probably juiced." Those lists were pretty long, and included many big names, but they were unofficial.
Then Roger Clemens became the face of that Mitchell Report, and many checked him off on their lists. But as much as those lists were meant to be real and strongly opinionated, there was some humor and exaggeration involved. So when Clemens was named, and then later made a fool in front of Congress, the hope that steroids weren't prevalent in the game took a turn for the worse.
"Clemens? Really? I had a feeling he probably was, but . . ."
That gut feeling became a reality, and you didn't want to believe it. The "hardest working man in throw business" was on the juice, leaving everybody in the sport under suspicion. So when Rodriguez was linked, nobody questioned the Sports Illustrated report. Instead, people wanted to know, who are the other 103?
It's a question that deserves answers. But will we get them? Will the remaining 103 names ever be revealed?
Rodriguez' name somehow was leaked from the list of 104 that is currently under seal by court orders in California. The survey urine testing in 2003 was intended to be non-disciplinary and anonymous, as part of the collective bargaining agreement. In other words, it's illegal to disclose any information from those tests.
But one name has been disclosed, and former steroids distributor Kirk Radomski has recently told WFAN in New York that he believes four players outed A-Rod to Sports Illustrated reporters Selena Roberts and David Epstein. There have been no reports, however, hinting that the outing of the other 103 names is imminent.
That brings me back to the initial question: Why aren't there more players demanding the entire list to be unsealed?
Since the Rodriguez news, we've heard from Curt Schilling, Lance Berkman, Torii Hunter, Roy Oswalt, Jamie Moyer, and most recently, David Ortiz, just to name a few players who have spoken out against other fellow players taking PED's. They all played during the period (2001-2003) that A-Rod told ESPN's Peter Gammons he used and tested positive for a "banned substance." We've also heard from some former players and managers, but what's most disturbing in all this is that there aren't more current players speaking out, and more specifically, demanding the remaining names to be revealed.
Because as long as those 103 names remain anonymous, the cloud of suspicion will continue to hover over everyone who played in 2003. Everybody will be in question, even if they come out and proclaim their cleanliness.
And maybe that's why we aren't hearing from many other players who played during that season, because they know, no matter what they say, or how much they deny steroid use, nobody will believe them. It's a bed that was made by guys like Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, and Roger Clemens. Not only did they lie about taking steroids, but they lied under oath, and got caught. So why should the court of public opinion believe any player who tries to address their case to the media? There aren't any legal issues when lying to the public. That player is in front of cameras and microphones, but they aren't under oath. And we now know even that hasn't stopped the game's finest from lying.
So who can we believe? Why would a player come out and say they've played the game the right way when they still won't be trusted?
It's simple. If more clean players from 2003 would put pressure on the union, the league, and the courts to get that list out there, then maybe those with the power to OK the release of the names would understand it'd be in the best interest of the game to do so.
There are some players in the union who are understandably upset that even just one name was released in the first place. These names and test results were meant to be anonymous under the collective bargaining agreement. But one cat has been let out of the bag. And you would think since that one name was the biggest name in baseball, most of the clean players during those years would want to come forward and demand the other names be released, in order to completely clear their name.
But it's not happening. Not from enough players that played in 2003. Not from enough players that should want to remove their name from this list's association because they know their solid season in '03 was natural. Just where are all these people? Their reluctance to speak about releasing the rest of the list doesn't do justice to the argument that steroids were not prevalent in Major League Baseball during that time.
Why should someone like Schilling be one of the only players wanting the entire list to be revealed?
"I'd be all for the 104 positives being named, and the game moving on if that is at all possible," said Schilling on his WEEI.com blog, 38 Pitches. "In my opinion, if you don't do that, then the other 600-700 players are going to be guilty by association, forever."
It couldn't have been said any better than that. Just put yourself in the shoes of a player who put up solid numbers in 2003, and did it the right way. If the other 103 names are never released, you will always be in question.
You don't have to rat anybody out, or help federal investigators find another trainer who was dishing out the goods. You just have to put pressure on those who have the power to reveal those names, to remove that cloud of suspicion from your playing days. To let the baseball world know that you "did nothing to enhance [your] performance, other than work [your] butt off," as Oswalt so kindly put it to MLB.com last week.
Forget about coming out and talking about increasing the punishment this time around, as Ortiz and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen did this week. Ortiz shouldn't be concerned about what's happening with testing this season. He should be concerned with the testing in 2003, with the list of failed tests that his name may or may not be on. Because there are 103 names, and until we get those names, Ortiz is just another player under suspicion, just like everybody else in the league at that time.
This is their chance, each and every clean player, to distinguish themselves as clean in what has been called the "steroid era." As far as we know, this is the only remaining list out there of actual failed tests, and it's not even supposed to be out there. But now that it is, it may be the only actual evidence of the "steroid era" (along with Bonds' filed tests, Brian McNamee's syringes, and a few HGH checks) when we look back 10 years from now. So if you're clean, why wouldn't you want the rest of this list released?
The only reason I can come up with is that there are many players that don't know if the substances they were using in 2003 triggered a positive test or not. And in fact, it was as "loosey goosey" of an era as Rodriguez described it. The Mitchell Report disputes that thought, saying all players who failed the test in 2003 were notified by September 2004, making A-Rod a liar. But if Rodriguez was in fact telling the truth, and not everybody was told, that leaves the door open to any of the 1,198 tested in 2003 possibly being named, because it's not like the remaining 1,094 players who passed their tests were told they passed.
Maybe everyone's paranoid. Or maybe they just don't care. But they should, because as long as the 103 names remain anonymous, those who were clean will forever be under the same cloud of steroid suspicion as those who were not. And how can we possibly move on, knowing that.