Baseball's Steroid Revelations Examined

This week, baseball's Alex Rodriguez admitted to using steroids from 2001 to 2003. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis says Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig could try to punish Rodriguez, but he would likely face a challenge from the players' union.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

What Alex Rodriguez did was wrong, and he will have to live with the damage that he has done to his name and reputation. Those are the words of Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig in a statement yesterday, a few days after A-Rod's admission that he used banned substances when he was playing for the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez is now the New York Yankees' third baseman. And he's on his way to being baseball's likely, future home-run record holder. Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis joins us now, as he does most Fridays. Hi, Stefan.

STEFAN FATSIS: Hey, Robert.

SIEGEL: Rodriguez confessed in an interview with ESPN that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 - that's after he joined the Texas Rangers -but he said he didn't know what drugs they were.

FATSIS: Yeah. Well, the drug testers figured that out. According to Sports Illustrated, he tested positive for testosterone and Primobolan, which apparently makes you stronger without adding bulk. He went on to say that he felt pressured to justify a big contract with Texas, the culture of the sport and the team was permissive. And I'm willing to believe most of that. But I look back now, and I remember telling you a couple of years ago that I was also looking forward to Rodriguez breaking Barry Bonds's home-run record because it would erase some of the stain of the steroids era. So much for that.

SIEGEL: Well, is he likely to be punished because of this?

FATSIS: You know, Bud Selig could try. But he'd no doubt face a challenge from the players' union. A hundred and four players tested positive in 2003. This was the first year of testing in Major League Baseball. These tests were supposed to be anonymous. It was supposed to set a benchmark to see whether baseball needed permanent testing. No names were supposed to get out. In fact, the results were supposed to be destroyed by the union. But before the union could do that, the results were subpoenaed by the federal government as part of its larger Balco investigation.

SIEGEL: And then there's the question of whether Rodriguez's records which, as you have said, promised to be a colossal before his career is done - whether they will be recognized by Major League Baseball.

FATSIS: This is a can of worms. I think what happened on the field, happened on the field. You can't pretend it didn't, which is why, like it or not, I think the records will, and I think they should, stand. Fans in history already are making their own judgments. Look at Mark McGuire. He was named on just 21 percent of this year's Hall of Fame ballets. You need 75 percent to get in. He actually lost votes this year.

SIEGEL: There's a question as to whether it was against the rules of baseball to be using these drugs in 2003. Wasn't it evident to players that they weren't supposed to be using performance-enhancing drugs?

FATSIS: You know, the culture of baseball made it seem like it was okay. Look at Rodriguez - he doesn't fit the pattern at all. He wasn't old, he wasn't hurt. He wasn't desperate for an advantage. He was already one of the best, if not the best player in baseball. So what I think you have is the culture that said, you can do this and oh, by the way, you don't have to worry about getting caught. Baseball ignored this problem for more than a decade before you even got to the point where limited testing was introduced.

Then it devised the testing system that was open to abuse and to leaks. So ultimately what do we have? A drip, drip, drip of revelations. Rodriguez is just the latest and the biggest. I say, let's learn who used what and move on. It's just more information for fans to have now. At least we can put this era into context.

SIEGEL: But the commissioner, Bud Selig, who represents the owners, and Donald Fehr, the head of the union who represents the players, are the same people who have been in charge throughout the entire steroids era.

FATSIS: And that is, I think, the most amazing thing here. Buster Olney of ESPN wrote about this the other day, how the players - Mark McGuire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens - they've all taken the fall, not unjustifiably, for baseball. But beyond a couple of tongue-lashings in front of Congress, the people who retrospectively failed to prevent this all from happening have suffered little. I've dealt with Bud Selig and Don Fehr for years. They are smart, thoughtful men. They shouldn't be blamed entirely for the steroids era. Baseball does have a stronger, if not perfect, testing system now.

But with each one of these episodes, these revelations, you do begin to wonder whether a new generation of management is needed for baseball.

SIEGEL: Okay. Thank you, Stef, and have a good weekend.

FATSIS: You, too, Robert. Thanks.

SIEGEL: Sportswriter Stefan Fatsis, who talks with us Fridays about sports and the business of sports.

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