When it comes to steroids, there's just no pleasing some people:
- The president of the World Anti-Doping Agency says Mark McGwire's admission of steroid use should spur baseball to get tougher on drug cheats.
WADA president John Fahey said Tuesday that despite "incremental progress" baseball's drug program still falls short of the "universally accepted standards" of the international code on doping.
After years of denying he took performance-enhancing drugs, a tearful McGwire apologized Monday. He said he used steroids and human growth hormone on and off for a decade, starting before the 1990 season and including 1998 when he hit 70 homers to break Roger Maris' record.
MLB commissioner Bud Selig responded by saying the "so-called 'steroid era' ... is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark's admission today is another step in the right direction."
However, former WADA president Dick Pound criticized Selig and said he's skeptical of claims that baseball is becoming cleaner.
"I think the jury is still out on that issue and that the self-serving statements by Bud Selig do nothing to increase confidence," Pound said in an e-mail. "What has emerged in the whole baseball mess is that drug use is widespread and that even the best players are involved - and still MLB is whistling past the graveyard.
"If you notice, McGwire talks about steroids and HGH. MLB does not even test for HGH (and many other doping substances). These MLB positions are not indicators of a real attempt to solve the drug use problem in baseball."
This Fahey fellow has become something of a nag, don't you think?
Look, of course he's right. The users will always be ahead of the testers, and particularly when the users belong to perhaps the most powerful union in the history of organized labor.
It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters to the fans and the writers and the broadcasters is appearances.
Have you ever wondered why McGwire and Barry Bonds have taken so much abuse compared to other baseball players? Have you ever wondered why baseball players have taken so much abuse compared to other professional athletes?
One reason: home runs.
If McGwire hadn't busted Maris' record and Bonds hadn't busted Aaron's, we would still see the sanctimonious carping but it would, I think, be at a lower pitch. The players of the past (and their records) have been romanticized, and McGwire's and Bonds' chief crime was to shatter those records in such (as we now know) unromantic fashion.
Now, though? The records seem fairly safe for the moment. John Fahey and Dick Pound can say whatever they like, but nobody's going to listen while players are leading the majors with fewer than 50 home runs (which happened in both 2008 and '09). Trust me: Until somebody hits 60 homers, everyone will happily accept the commissioner's contention that nobody's using the drugs anymore.
I do believe that fewer players are using illegal drugs today than five years ago, and I do think that's a good thing. It would be naive to think that nobody's using drugs, or that nobody's gaining a competitive advantage. But the WADA's not going to get anywhere until somebody hits 65 or 70 home runs.