Et tú, Melky?
In 2005, I fell out of love with baseball. That was the year that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for anabolic steroids after swearing – under oath – that he never used them.
I was probably more betrayed by the lying, than by whatever it is he actually did or took. And, so I began a complete baseball boycott that lasted five seasons.
Here’s what Palmeiro said to Congress – under oath — in March 2005:
“Let me start by telling you this: I have never used steroids, period. I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than that. Never.”
Five months later, Palmeiro was suspended for failing a drug test.
And, so I fell out of love with baseball. Not because Rafael Palmeiro was my favorite player. He wasn’t, although I loved him as an Oriole. Still, I was angry enough to quit baseball.
I don’t know how to say it any more clearly than this … I’m quite conflicted over performance enhancing drugs (PEDs).
Here’s the Yogic view. Yoga includes the Yamas and Niyamas, limbs governing personal behavior and lifestyle. One of the rules is Purity – often defined as not abusing the body with unhealthy food, drugs, or activities. Clearly, Purity is at risk when you’re taking PEDs. Another rule is Truthfulness.
From a Yogic perspective, PEDs destroy the body (and we already know that the body can be severely and permanently damaged by the use of many of these drugs). Lying about it just compounds things.
OK, full disclosure from me. I use PEDs. I’m using right now. I have caffeine every day, even though I know it’s not good for my body. Is it a PED? You bet it is. It makes me a better massage therapist and a better Yoga instructor. It ensures that I can teach a Yoga class late in the evening and still be “on” and bright-eyed.
Maybe it’s just a mild stimulant. But, it’s still a stimulant. It’s a drug. I use it. And, I’m not the only one. So, you see how quickly this issue can become complicated.
Many of us are guilty of using something that “enhances” our work or our play. Maybe there are some in baseball who see their PEDs as simply their version of caffeine.
The difference is that in baseball – and other sports – the use of these drugs is forbidden.
And, some people get caught.
The more I read, the more people whisper, the more I hear that everyone in baseball is doing it; only the unlucky few get caught.
I guess I would argue that, if it is going to be banned, then Major League Baseball has a responsibility to work a little harder to find and punish as many “cheaters” as possible.
And, why are some of these drugs banned when others like cortisone – also a steroid – are not only approved, but, from my perspective, downright abused by pro sports?
My husband argues that PEDs skew baseball records – and part of what makes baseball so special is its love for tradition and statistics. But, even before PEDs, there were amphetamines and who knows what kind of snake oil they were using before that. If Roger Maris deserved an asterisk on his homerun season (an asterisk that actually never existed), then shouldn’t those who broke records under the cloud of steroids? (Although, to be fair, none of them actually tested positive for anything. So, who’s to know?)
And, what about spitballs, pine tar, phantom tags, and myriad other forms of cheating?
(By the way, the Giants’ Melky Cabrera could even still win the NL batting title this year, despite his suspension this month. I like the Giants and all, but still, that seems a bit unfair.)
I don’t like steroids. I don’t like cheaters. And, I don’t like liars.
I’m just trying to figure out why Melky Cabrera — or anyone — would risk it. Maybe I need to look at it from another perspective.
When ballplayers hit .300 they’re considered superstars. (My husband and I joke that the Orioles are unaware that batting averages are allowed to go that high.)
But, think about it, these guys who are batting .300 are “out” two out of three at bats. And, they’re the BEST in the game. In their world, taking a chance on a PED, knowing that you might — might — get caught, but probably won’t, is way better odds than their regular day at the plate.
The rewards far outweigh the risks.
Last night on ESPN, Orel Hershiser argued that until MLB takes the PED situation seriously – by making the penalty severe enough that a player would be foolish to risk it – then the problem will continue.
Major League Baseball will continue to nab the unfortunate few careless or unlucky enough to get caught and everyone else will breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn’t them … and go back to what they were doing.
So, are we fans angry because they used drugs? Or, because they got caught?
Are Giants’ and A’s fans angry because Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon used drugs or because they got caught leaving their pennant-chasing teams in the lurch? (On the other hand, are Dodgers’ and Angels’ fans secretly gleeful?)
Are we sitting smug and self-righteous, secretly happy to see a rich superstar have a run of bad luck? Or, are we hypocrites because we cut corners in our own lives, maybe even cheat from time to time, and take our own forms of performance enhancing drugs?
So, here I sit, my Diet Mountain Dew – my own PED — right next to me, trying to make sense of it all. And, all I come back to is this. I don’t know how to feel. Betrayed? Angry? Or, just resigned to the fact that as long as a game offers such enormous rewards, it will be worth the risk for a player to be all he, or she, can be.
I just don’t know.