A problem that hurts Davis, Orioles

I've spent the morning hearing people say that Chris Davis was selfish, getting himself suspended for 25 games in the middle of a September pennant race.

I've spent the morning hearing people say that Chris Davis was stupid, taking a substance like Adderall, which he knew he couldn't take without getting nailed.

Well, there's certainly an element of truth to both of those labels. But there's a part of this I haven't heard anyone talk about.

Chris Davis has a problem. In his apology statement on Friday morning, he indicated the problem is with Adderall. And if that's true, his problem is actually shared by thousands of people in this country -- quite a few of them athletes, by the way.

And now his baseball team has a problem, one it might not be able to overcome as it desires those World Series parade floats.

You should recognize that Adderall is a powerful, physically and psychologically addictive stimulant. I've spoken to athletes who have taken it. I've spoken to their representatives. I've spoken to people in the sports world who have dealt with athletes and their Adderall issues firsthand.

It's easy for all of us to say that guys like Davis should just stop taking it if they know they don't have a league-approved, therapeutic use exemption. Obviously, that's what they should do.

But Davis' suspension Friday was just one more reminder that it's something many of them can't do.

If you're under the impression Adderall is a substance Davis tried to get away with taking once, then just got caught, you're wrong. Under the terms of the current MLB and players' association drug policy agreement, a player isn't suspended the first time he tests positive for a stimulant like Adderall. He's simply informed of the positive test and told exactly what that means:

It means he's about to be subject to extensive future testing. It means now he knows he's going to be tested an additional six times a year, beyond the test every player is required to undergo during spring training, plus at least one unannounced test during the season.

So think about this. If Davis got suspended for using Adderall, it means he tested positive previously, knew he tested positive, knew he was going to be tested at least eight more times in the next year and . . .

Kept taking it anyway.

If you think this through logically, you know what that suggests. It suggests he didn't keep taking Adderall because he thought he could somehow beat all those tests. Maybe he kept taking it because he couldn't stop.

Athletes who have taken it have told me that once you're used to playing your sport when you're taking Adderall, it's incredibly difficult to play without it. I don't pretend that I graduated from medical or pharmaceutical school. But what they've told me, and what I've read and heard from others, left a strong impression.

Adderall is a drug renowned among athletes -- and students cramming for finals -- for its ability to heighten focus in a way that allows an athlete on a playing field to lock in as they may have never before.

I had one former professional athlete tell me once that he was offered Adderall by a friend right before a round of golf. The friend told him: "If you take this, I guarantee you'll play the best round of golf you've ever played in your life."

So he tried it and told me he'd never felt the powers of concentration he felt that day, that he saw every shot in his mind before he hit it, that every swing felt perfect and that he did indeed play one of the best rounds he'd ever played.

Now imagine playing sports for a living, knowing that feeling and then being told by your sport you can no longer use the substance that made you feel that way. You might not be physically addicted. But you're mentally addicted.

Would you stop? Really? Are you sure?

Just check out all the Adderall-related suspensions in the NFL in recent years, and tell me it's that easy.

I can't say, with any assurance, that that's what happened to Chris Davis. This is private, unless he chooses to speak about it. So we may never know every detail of how, or why, he had a therapeutic use exemption, lost it, tested positive, knew what that meant and kept taking this drug anyway.

But it's at least a possible scenario. And it's now left a mark on one of the best teams in baseball heading into the postseason.

I'm a guy who recently picked the Orioles to go to the World Series. I made that pick because this team reminds me of the Indians of the mid to late 1990s, a team that went to two World Series with power up and down its batting order but a rotation that was deep and useful but without a true ace.

Now, after Davis' suspension, it's much harder to look at the Orioles that way. I still love their bullpen, their defense, their depth and the way their manager, coaching staff and front office have built and used all of that.

But offensively, what separated them from everyone else was simple: Thunder. Power. The threat of the home run from any spot in the order.

They've hit 24 more home runs (192) than any other team in baseball -- and 52 more than the next most prolific AL team that appears October-bound (the Angels). The Orioles score nearly 50 percent of their runs off the long ball. And they just lost a guy who A) led the league in homers last season (yes, while using Adderall) and B) had hit 26 home runs this year, even in an otherwise mediocre season.

I know Buck Showalter well enough to know that he's going to go on, and his team will go on, and they're not going to whine about this for the next month.

But they're not the same team. And not the same threat. Not anymore.

All because Chris Davis has a problem -- and on Friday, the problem won.

And it was the Orioles who lost.