A sad day for baseball

STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Somewhere in between the self-serving speeches of their great love of baseball and their drooling over star players, the U.S. House of Representatives found enough time yesterday to expose Major League Baseball as conniving and deceitful in its apparent fight against steroids.

By the end of a long, emotional and meandering day before Congress, no names were named, no fingers were necessarily pointed, but baseball itself was sliced and diced and threatened until all that was left was more mistrust and more suspicion.

CLEAN UP YOUR ACT

Baseball was not simply asked to clean up its act. It was being told to do so.

And it was being told to do even more than that.

With the gut-wrenching backdrop of the broader issue -- steroid usage among American teens -- somehow baseball is being held accountable for social issues now.

Somehow Barry Bonds isn't only on trial (in the public eye) for hitting too many home runs at too old an age, he and others are suddenly answerable for steroid-driven suicides and a crisis seemingly out of control. These are dots that don't necessarily connect, but Congress couldn't see it that way.

And yesterday, it started with all kinds of doubt about the willingness of Major League Baseball to do anything tangible about its own steroid problems.

"It's not their game, it's ours," said Jim Bunning, the former big league pitcher who sits in the U.S. Senate and clearly has a problem with the altered state of the game.

"In my day, players didn't get better when they got older," he said. "They didn't get bigger. It's not natural and it's not right."

And then, quietly but not subtly, he issued the kind of threat that would shake every major-league owner who lives for his monopoly: He threatened that if nothing changed in baseball, their long-standing anti-trust exemption could be taken away.

He said that before the new big league drug testing policy was slammed by both Congress and a leading American physician, who found upwards of 13 loopholes in the first-year policy.

He said that before the medical advisor who was working for Major League Baseball threatened under oath to resign if the loopholes he didn't seem aware of weren't closed.

He said that before Congress exposed inconsistencies in the policy -- one policy sent to Congress was different from the one the Players' agreed to, different from the one agreed to by the owners.

All that happened before noon, which considering how much politicians like to hear themselves talk, was remarkable on its own.

In the afternoon, Mark McGwire cried and then made us want to every time he refused to answer a question and played a part in further diminishing his own legacy. That came after Congress showed almost a complete lack of comprehension about the complexities of drug testing by continually referring to the Olympic Games as the gold standard of drug testing.

Never mind the history of American drug tests covered up at the Olympic Games. When it comes to their own indiscretions, Americans can be marvelously myopic and naive all at the same time.

MASKING AGENTS

There is no gold standard for drug testing anywhere, not when the labs are forever behind the tests, not when baseball won't test for masking agents or human growth hormones.

Not when the big league protocols are laughable, even by the standards of the National Football League.

"I accept the social responsibility we have," commissioner Bud Selig said.

He said it with a straight face.

By the end of a very long and bad day for baseball, no one had the energy to argue otherwise.


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