Rose is no fan of steroids ... or lying

BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

It was all over the television on Thursday and Jalen Rose watched virtually every minute of it. Even though Rose is a basketball player, he took great interest in the U.S. congressional hearings on the subject of steroid abuse in Major League Baseball.

And all things considered, the veteran Raptor said baseball executives and players have no one to blame but themselves for the bad publicity.

"For the athletes involved, I think it's a shame -- in particular Mark McGwire (who) just doesn't own up to the fact that he committed the act, which he's probably ashamed of," Rose said yesterday.

"Since (McGwire) is done playing, he should take the stance that, 'I'm going to tell people not to do it,' as opposed to, 'I'm not going to talk about the past,' when we already know about the past in detail.

"Everybody is putting themselves in the position of being criticized, instead of being men and saying, 'I did it, but I won't encourage anybody else to do it.'"

Rose is a rarity among pro athletes in that he actually takes an interest in current events that extend beyond his chosen sport. If you ask Rose a question regarding just about anything, he is familiar with the subject and always has a thoughtful opinion.

A U.S. congressional committee took on the steroids issue in the wake of a controversial book by ex-Blue Jay Jose Canseco, in which he detailed alleged steroid use by himself and others. McGwire and Canseco were among the players and ex-players who testified before the committee on Thursday, along with Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa and Frank Thomas.

Palmeiro, Sosa and Thomas all made the laughable claim that they never used steroids. And while Canseco openly has admitted his steroid use, McGwire walked a fine line, declining to admit he took steroids but not denying it, either.

It was an ugly day for pro sports and Rose knows it.

"People have to understand the basics of athletics is fair play," said Rose, whose Raptors visited the Detroit Pistons last night. "That's why we shake hands after every event. I line up against you, whether it's middle school, high school, college, pro, and I try to beat you. But when it's over, I understand that you did not necessarily have an unfair advantage over me."

But unfair advantages apparently became commonplace in baseball, whose head honchos looked the other way to salvage the excitement of record home-run totals.

"It wasn't illegal, but it got out of hand," Rose said of the steroids plague. "Baseball put itself in the position of being criticized because any time you have a five-strike policy (for progressive punishments), people think you're willing to allow that situation to snowball before you actually put a stop to it. If they had come up with a harsh penalty from the beginning, they wouldn't be facing so much scrutiny now."

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The NBA's collective bargaining agreement with its players runs out at the end of this season. When asked last month about the steroids scandal in baseball, NBA commissioner David Stern said he would like his sport to adopt a policy that precludes the mere question of steroids being a serious problem in basketball.

So, are steroids a serious problem in basketball?

"I think enhancements are an issue anywhere that is competitive," Rose said. "Any time you're trying to compete against the next person for a job, for a position, for a contract, for a victory, people are willing to do whatever it takes to get an edge."

In other words, strong rules and deterrents must be in place. But strong rules and deterrents must exist in every corner of society.

Pro athletes are no better, or worse, than the rest of us. Regardless of the situation, a certain percentage of the population is going to cheat if they think they can get away with it.

As Rose summed up: "That's a life trait more than it is a sports trait."


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