Bud Selig Comments on Mark McGwires' Admission of Steroid Use, MLB release, comments by Larry Eder

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It was just after two pm Central time today that I saw the AP release on my phone. The release noted that Mark McGwire, the former St. Louis Cardinal, admitted using steroids during his career. Right after the AP release, I received the following:

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January 11, 2010

COMMISSIONER’S STATEMENT

Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig issued the following statement today regarding Mark McGwire’s comments about the use of performance-enhancing substances:

“I am pleased that Mark McGwire has confronted his use of performance-enhancing substances as a player. Being truthful is always the correct course of action, which is why I had commissioned Senator George Mitchell to conduct his investigation. This statement of contrition, I believe, will make Mark’s reentry into the game much smoother and easier.

“While we, along with all sports organizations, continue to battle the use of such drugs and continue the intensive search for a valid test for HGH, I believe our drug testing program is the toughest and most effective in professional sports. Last year in the Major Leagues, we had only two positives for steroids out of 3,722 tests. We have banned and aggressively test for amphetamines, substances which club doctors and professional athletic trainers have told me had presented serious problems for the sport for decades. Our minor league program will begin its 10th year in 2010. We conducted 8,995 tests in the minor leagues last year of which less than eight-tenths of one percent was positive.

“The use of steroids and amphetamines amongst today’s players has greatly subsided and is virtually non-existent as our testing results have shown. The so-called “steroid era” – a reference that is resented by the many players who played in that era and never touched the substances – is clearly a thing of the past, and Mark’s admission today is another step in the right direction.”

End of Bud Selig's press release, what follows is the commentary on that release by Larry Eder:

Ironically, I had defended Mr. McGwire on Canadian radio about a decade ago, noting that while the athletics federation, the IAAF, had banned what he then admitted to be using-a pretend steriod-, Major League Baseball had not banned the substance. I noted then that Mr. McGwire was a role model, and the honest action would be to stop taking what was then called, I believe, Andro. Mr. McGwire did stop taking the "pretend steroid" and his old injuries came back.

Mr. Selig's statement on McGwire's admission was produced just above this commentary. Well-crafted, the statement assures fans, sponsors, and the media that Mr. McGwire has admitted his guilt, which is a good thing, and Mr. McGwire be welcomed back as a less than perfect person, into the fold of humanity, like us all. Mr. Selig does note that McGwire's admission has hurt many athletes who have never used drugs and that was bad. Mr. Selig also notes that baseball had 3,700 plus tests last year, and only two were positive, using that statistic as an example of the re-sanctifying of baseball. While Mr. Selig does not assure the reader that the stench of drugs are gone from baseball, he does suggest that the problem is being handled pretty darn well.

I will admit that Mr. Selig seems quite sincere. I will admit that many will see Mr. Selig's comments and Mr. McGwires' admission as a good thing. And, on one level, I do too. I welcome Mark McGwire admitting to his foibles and applaud him on the back for being man enough to take the heat. Many who have used, most who have used steriods or HGH hide it.

I do have a disagreement with Mr. Selig that MLB has nearly cured the cancer of performance enhancing drugs. No sports have cured the cancer of performance enhancing drugs, and several have tried much, much harder to deal with the problem in a realistic manner. Track & Field and road running come to mind.

Few positives at a major event, where testing is done, merely means that the athletes have gotten smarter. For testing to work, out of competition testing is de rigeur. That, and constant vigilance. Unfortunately, while cheaters are a large minority, they have added a stench to all modern sports.

As long as there is money in sport, as long as professional athletes are looked upon as deities and Networks are built around them, and Nobel prize winners languish in anonymity (as do other people who contribute to society), there will be a drug problem in sports.

The truth is, what MLB has done, but not nearly to the level of the IAAF or USATF testing, is to be lauded. But drug cheaters are not naive, and they know how to beat testing-with money. To beat the testing, it takes lots of money. Some athletes, some federations, some individuals have it, and most do not. Testing of the top athletes, in order to break their ability to cycle any known type of drugs, makes sense. Drug education makes sense. We also have to fund WADA and USADA with real money, or they will just be institutions with good intentions.

The naive comments that the scourge of steroids, something Mr. Selig only admitted in the last decade, which has hurt baseball terribly, is nearly contained, is not only specious, but ludicrous. Modern society has put sports in a place that it never belonged. Sports as entertainment is good and bad. Watching a great football game, or a close relay race, or a good baseball game is fun. But, in the end, it is only sport, it is not real life.

I remember paying a $1 to watch baseball in the old Busch stadium with my aunt Patty. We took the Cherokee bus to the game, and it was fun. In high school, I would go to games with my mom, from tickets the Busch family donated if you got straight As. The games were a blast. And I remember trading baseball cards ( I had Willie Mays, Fergie Jenkins, Bob Gibson) as a kid too. Those days, that love for the sport is gone.

Mr. Selig has a huge challenge in front of him. It is not an easy task, to clean up a sport. To clean up a reputation of something great, now lost. I wish him well. But, in order to be taken seriously by his potential sponsors, fans and media covering the sport, Mr. Selig needs to keep his eyes open. MLB had taken some laudable steps. Mark McGwire's admission is a good step on the way to cleaning up the sport that many love. But, constant vigilance is required.

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