2005-03-25 / Sports

MLB Congressional Steroid Hearings Accomplish Nothing

By Denis Gorman

There was a lot of sound and fury emanating from Washington D.C last Thursday. As per usual, it signified nothing.

As you’re probably all too-aware, the House Government Reform Committee brought Major League Baseball in to be publicly humiliated Thursday in an all-day hearing.

In the end, however, the only ones humiliated were the American people. Or at least we should be. As a people, we should be outraged that Congress has nothing better to do than to call Major League Baseball onto the carpet for sports’ sins; to waste our tax money like this. As if they have nothing better to do.

This is not to say Bud Selig and Co. didn’t have this coming. Without a shadow of a doubt, they did. The sport’s ridiculously inane steroid “policy” needs to grow reworked. Fines and suspensions aren’t going to cut it.

But, look around our neighborhoods. Before taking on a multi-billion dollar monopoly, shouldn’t our leaders be concerned with fighting the War on Terror, educating the next generation(s), finding a cure for cancer and AIDS; housing the homeless and helping those who cannot help themselves? 

The session began with Committee Chairman Tom Davis, the Republican Senator from Virginia, stating that athletes at the high school level believe steroids aren’t harmful. He also noted that in the last ten years, the amount of high school athletes who abuse steroids have tripled.

Those are shocking, depressing statements. And, if the Committee’s goal was to abolish steroid use in the amateur ranks, it would have been noble. Alas, Davis’ next statement clearly stated Congress’ intent.

“I think they misjudged the seriousness of our purpose. I think they misjudge the American public. I think they mistakenly believed we got into this on a whim. We did not. We gave this serious, serious consideration and we have decided that it’s time to break the code of silence that has been enveloped the game. We’re in the first inning of what could be an extra inning ball game and the truth needs to come out, however ugly the truth may be.”

Perhaps Sen. Davis is speaking to a different group of people. The American public, for the most part, has shown a complete indifference to the steroid story. Instead of demanding that their heroes take public drug tests and beg forgiveness, the fans’ reaction has been, “Oh really? I guess that makes sense...when do the Yankees and Red Sox play?”

But, Senator Davis has his fingers on the pulse of the American people.

Following Davis’ remarks, Senator Jim Bunning—a former Major League pitcher—ripped MLB’s drug policy, calling it “puny.”

Bunning, who threw a perfect game June 21, 1964 against the Mets at Shea Stadium, was very blunt with his remarks. “I remembered players didn’t get any better as they got older,” the Senator said. “We all got worse.” He later went on to suggest that if a player fails a third drug test, said player should be thrown out of the game.

It’s a tough stand, one that might not stand up in federal court, but it’s the stand the Selig and Fehr and Co. should take. But, that wasn’t going to be enough. Not on this day.

After a break, Sen. Davis introduced Dr. Denise Garibaldi and her husband Raymond. Their son, Rob, was a former baseball player at the University of Southern California.

Rob committed suicide, and the parents believe his use of steroids led to his premature death. Rob’s heroes were Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco.

Mr. and Mrs. Garibaldi criticized the players, especially Canseco, who wrote in his autobiography “Juiced” that if players are smart about using steroids they can reach “full potential.”

“Canseco states that his counterparts imply that as long as you trust your instincts, control carefully the amounts, administer them at a proper time and be smart, careful and know what you are doing, full potential can be reached. I’d like to know where Dr. Canseco got his research...How many more youngsters will die questing ego and fame for steroids?” Dr. Garibaldi asked.

Now, nothing can and will make up for the tragic loss of their son’s life. But, why is Major League Baseball culpable for their son’s loss? Major League Baseball did not give Rob Gaibaldi steroids. They did not tell him to take steroids. 

If Congress really wanted to get serious about the steroid problem in sports—at all levels—why didn’t they call in Paul Tagliabue and Jerry Richardson, NFL commissioner and owner of the Carolina Panthers? Just last week, nine Panthers’ players tested positive for steroids.

Nine players out of 53. Why didn’t Congress call the USAOlympic Committee? Seemingly in every Olympics, hundreds of athletes from around the world test positive for some sort of drug. Why not call wrestling promoters’ such as World Wrestling Entertainment’s Vince McMahon and National Wrestling Alliance’s Jerry Jarrett? There are only hundreds of dead professional wrestlers, who participated in the 1980s and 1990s, who have succumbed due to steroid abuse.

But, wait, it didn’t serve Congress’ purpose. No, that was served when Mark McGwire became teary-eyed and said, “I’m here to talk about the positive and not the negative. I’m not here to talk about the past.”

It was served when Curt Schilling, who treated Congress’ grandstanding with grandstanding of his own, called Canseco “the so-called author” and “a liar.”

Last Thursday, Congress had a chance to do some good.

They dropped the ball.

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