Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I meannnnnn, Are We Really Surprised?


In the past three weeks, Lance Armstrong, Alex Rodriguez, and Ray Lewis have all either admitted or been accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. Each man has his own unique circumstances, but essentially, it cements the idea that PEDs are rampant and this in all likelihood will never change.

Armstrong's long fall from grace ended with some farts into Oprah's excessively comfortable chaises. Cycling is basically guys on drugs riding bikes in France for two weeks, and as awesome a story his triumphant return from cancer was, name five bike riders in the Tour of France. So that's not super interesting, but it also happened recently and I wanted to talk about farts into couch cushions.

On to A-Rod. This morning, a report by the Miami New Times linked Biogenics, an "anti-aging" clinic in Miami that supplied PEDs, to several major league players (plus a random tennis guy). This report links Alex Rodriguez most notably, but also other major leaguers based out of the Miami area. Bartolo Colon, Melky Cabrera, and Yosmani Grandal, three players who have failed drug tests last season, appeared as customers of this clinic, as well as Nelson Cruz and Gio Gonzalez. As a result, Major League Baseball launched an investigation and the Yankees are trying to void the last FIVE years of his contract (they won't be able to). This of course comes on the heels of no one getting inducted to the Hall of Fame largely due to alleged or proven use of performance enhancing drugs.

Ray Lewis, justice obstructuer and Nelly-dancer, miraculously returned mere months after tearing his triceps,  an injury that normally sidelines players for their entire season. Was it an act of God? Did God tell Ray how to recover remarkably quickly? Maybe. An equally plausible scenario is that he used IGF-1. This drug "naturally produce[s] anabolic hormone that stimulates human growth" and contains deer-antler extract that you spray under your tongue. Ray Lewis' quick return wasn't really a shock and neither is his implication with PEDs. People have been joking about that since he came back against Indianapolis (three "Hot in Herrrrrre" dances ago). Deadspin, as usual, is all over the story and makes the strong point that 'hey, this is football, we don't give a shit how these players abuse their bodies or how their bodies get abused by the game.' In a related note, the NFLPA is spending $100 million on a study about NFL players' brains.

So to put it succinctly, steroids still exist in baseball and we care a lot, Lance Armstrong farted in close proximity to Oprah, and Ray Lewis is the worst (also we don't care if NFL players cheat).

The most interesting aspect of the Miami report to me is essentially that this is one place in one city and several athletes associated with that area use steroids through this place. It is basically BALCO Miami. I don't think Miami and the Bay Area are outliers; I think they are the norm. As long as there is technology, there will be better drugs, smarter ways of defeating drug tests, and players willing to risk becoming pariahs to recover faster or hit a ball farther. Baseball didn't end its steroid problem with the Mitchell Report and drug testing. There will always be access to the drugs and players willing to take the risk, be it an aging A-Rod, a guy who hates working out (Bartolo Colon), a pitcher signed to a new contract (Gio Gonzalez), or any reason for any player. Maybe the next ring will be in Boston or Chicago or Los Angeles; the point is if players like Cruz, Gonzalez, and A-Rod can beat drug tests, why should we bury our collective heads in the collective sand about steroid use elsewhere? We can't sweep steroids under the rug, and while there is some indication that the use of PED has decreased (home runs per game and positive tests), it is still a part of the game.

This morning it was Miami-area players, next month it could be somewhere else. Steroids exist in MLB and the NFL and they aren't going anywhere. The question then is, what do we do with the guys caught using?

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