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May 31, 2002
by Bill Hogan



RBI, home run, on base percentage, ERA, hitting streak, shutout, no-hitter, sac-fly, squeeze play, stolen base, hit and run, double play, line drive, split-fingered fastball.

See that, it is possible to write a sentence in a baseball-related story using only the traditional terminology of the game. O.K. so the sentence doesn't really make sense, but neither does anything else I've read about baseball lately.


And now we can add steroid use to the growing list of non-baseball issues that have been monopolizing the sports pages this season.

Athletes on steroids? Seems impossible, doesn't it? Especially in a sport that has no drug testing policy in place. Should baseball players be tested for illegal substances? The answer is simple - only if you want players to stop using illegal substances.

Obviously there shouldn't have to be mandatory drug testing. Obviously any athlete should - on his or her own - avoid taking a drug that is proven to be extremely harmful to your health. But then again, it shouldn't be necessary to have seatbelt laws either.

If baseball's management is really interested in knowing just how "rampant" steroid use is within their sport all they have to do is have the players vote on a drug testing policy. It's a safe bet that the percentage of "no" votes will give them a pretty good idea how many players have something to hide.

I find it hard to believe that steroid use could be as widespread as is being reported. The numbers don't add up. In 2001, just a dozen players hit forty or more homeruns. If these muscle-enhancing drugs are so prevalent, how come that number is so (relatively) low?

If strength was the only necessary tool for hitting a major league fastball then Arnold Schwarzenegger would be in the Hall of Fame and Babe Ruth would have been a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium.

Of course the conspiracy theorists will scrutinize every individual accomplishment with skepticism. Hmm Barry Bonds hits forty-nine home runs in 2000 then goes crazy in 2001 with an unbelievable seventy-three. Maybe it was the achievement of a lifetime, or maybe it was steroids.

Well, Babe Ruth hit twenty-nine homers for the Boston Redsox in 1919 then blasted a record fifty-four with the Yankees in 1920. Was it the start of the Boston Curse? Or possibly the result of some sort of early twentieth century hormone injection.

And Roger Maris went deep thirty-nine times in 1960 and thirty-three times in 1962. Sandwiched in between was his record-breaking sixty-one in '61. Was he hopped up on steroids or did he just have a phenomenal year?

The documented health risks that come with steroid use are enormous. Then again, the threat of cancer hasn't stopped millions of people from smoking or chewing tobacco. But reading down the not-so-short list of steroid side effects, I found the mother of all deterrents.

"Genitalia dysfunction." The very words send shivers up my spine. I don't know everything that genitalia dysfunction entails, but I do know one symptom is shrinking testicles. That should be all that needs to be said to any man considering the use of steroids to enhance his on-field performance.

We take calculated risks every day when we get behind the wheel of a car, step onto an airplane or climb up on a ladder. But to take a drug that could reduce my boys to the size of raisins? Not even the Yankees have enough money to make that worth my while.

This is the kind of "side effect" that would make any bad habit real easy to quit. If "may be hazardous to your health" won't cut it, how about "may turn your gonads into good-n-plenty".

Slap that warning label onto the side of a can of Coors Light and you'll be able to count on one hand the number of drunken fans at the next home game.

Baseball is suffering through it's worst image problem since the '94 strike. The last thing the sport needs is the image of a bunch of testosterone-filled muscle-heads running around a baseball diamond with plenty of bats and gloves, but no balls.

Forget about drug testing. You want to know who in Major League Baseball is using steroids? Ask each team's equipment manager which players have requested smaller jockstraps.

(There goes another shiver up my spine).


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