Manipulating steroid results tests negative for credibility

Commentary

November 07, 2005|By PETER SCHMUCK

The integrity of baseball's anti-steroid program took another body blow last week when news broke that two-time All-Star Matt Lawton had become the 12th major league player to test positive for a banned substance.

No, I'm not throwing in with the politicians and subscribing to the ridiculous theory that every time a well-known player tests positive is more proof that the game needs the draconian penalties recommended by Congress - which, by the way, is a group of supposed national role models who would never agree to adopt their own random drug screening program.

I think the positive tests - particularly in the cases of well-known stars like Lawton and Rafael Palmeiro - are an indication that the program in place is fairly credible, though I would favor a first-offense penalty somewhere between the 10-game suspension prescribed under the current system and the 50-game suspension proposed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig.

The problem with the Lawton suspension is that steroid rumors were percolating for a week before it was announced, even though Lawton insists that he chose not to appeal his positive test.

There were whispers during the World Series that an outfielder playing on a postseason team had tested positive and the result would not be announced until after the Fall Classic.

Want proof? The Internet betting site Sportsinteraction.com sent out a press release two days (Oct. 31) before the Lawton announcement saying fairly definitively that an outfielder playing in the postseason had tested positive and would be unmasked soon. The site even offered odds on which player it might be - posting Gary Sheffield as the 2-1 favorite and listing about a dozen possible candidates.

Lawton was not on the list (so I assume that the house - or cyberhouse, if you will - won all bets) and he was curiously left off the Yankees' postseason roster, but the information was close enough to seem like more than a lucky guess.

Major League Baseball has to walk a tightrope with its steroid testing program, balancing the need to maintain confidentiality with the importance of a very transparent anti-steroid policy. It certainly gives the appearance that the announcement on Lawton may have been held so that it did not sully the World Series, which should raise some eyebrows after Palmeiro's appeal process dragged on right through the celebration of his 3,000th hit.

Whatever the penalties, baseball needs a program that gets from positive test to appeal to public announcement in very short order to avoid the appearance (twice now) that the news was manipulated for public relations reasons.

I've got a friend in the business who likes to say that "the great ones show up early," but I didn't feel too great after I flew coast-to-coast on Saturday and found out when the plane touched down that the Rahman/Klitschko heavyweight title fight had been postponed.

What's this, the 28th time that Klitschko has backed out of a fight citing health reasons?

If art imitated life, this would be the point in Rocky IV when Dolph Lundgren looks down at Sylvester Stallone and says, "I must break me."

Spent the flight west finishing Next Man Up, the new book from best-selling sports author John Feinstein that goes behind the scenes in the Ravens' organization. Made me all nostalgic for last season, which isn't necessarily a good thing, since the Ravens didn't reach the playoffs in 2004.

The book, however, puts you right on the sideline and right in the middle of the super-secret society that is an NFL franchise. The interplay between Brian Billick and owner Steve Bisciotti and the interpersonal dynamics of the coaching staff are probably worth the price of admission, but the thing I found most intriguing was the blow-by-blow account of draft day from inside the Ravens' war room.

The top story on SportsPickle.com this week: "Report: Charlie Weis' new contract to be paid entirely in ice cream"

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

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