Steroid-induced black eyes are the worst

By Gus Bode

It’s almost better for us to not know. I mean, Alex Rodriguez, the best baseball player in the game today, used steroids? Sure, I’d rather know the truth, but it doesn’t make me feel good. If the news isn’t downright depressing, it certainly epitomizes the steroids era of baseball, even more so than Barry Bonds’ all-time record of 762 home runs being shrouded in suspicion.

It’s also a black eye for baseball; the kind of black eye that comes from the fist of a man who used steroids for three years. The black eye includes a shattered eye socket and some permanent vision damage.

In the book ‘Vindicated,’ Jose Canseco wrote that he introduced Rodriguez to a known supplier of steroids. Rodriguez said this is not true, but even so – maybe we should start listening to Canseco. Yeah, he comes off as worldly as Dewey Cox, and I feel sorry for whoever is charged with interviewing him, but he hasn’t steered us wrong yet. You know, except when he was playing baseball, secretly using steroids and doing anti-steroid commercials at the same time.

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Bonds had been suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs for years, but Rodriguez never was considered a user much more than anyone else. We had Canseco’s story, but we had plenty of reasons to not to believe him. Or we just didn’t want to.

The only way we get confirmation if a player used steroids or didn’t is finding out he tested positive. That’s it. We found out Rodriguez used, but nobody can definitively say that someone else didn’t. Nobody can prove that anybody from Derek Jeter to Juan Pierre is clean. That’s unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the situation. We just suspect them less than others, especially when players like Alex Sanchez have tested positive, and someone like Jim Parque was mentioned in the Mitchell Report.

Here’s where the vision damage comes into play and relates to how the public’s view of professional athletes has evolved over the years. They were idolized and written about as heroes before World War II put into perspective what really makes a hero, and now we’re all forced to suspect to varying degrees that they use performance-enhancing drugs. At this rate, we’ll despise every professional athlete within 50 years.

Anyway, players who have tested positive run the gamut from Sanchez to Guillermo Mota to Rafael Palmeiro. There’s no test to catch HGH users, so we can’t be sure about anybody’s numbers anymore. We just know that we can’t trust A-Rod’s numbers, at least from 2001 through 2003, which is when he said he used. Now it becomes an issue of who believes him and who doesn’t.

I don’t even know if I believe him. I want to, and it supports his case that he averaged 52 home runs in the three seasons that he claims he used steroids and about 42 in the five seasons since 2003. I hope he’s telling the truth, especially because there’s a good chance for him to surpass Bonds’ career home run total of 762.

It’s not like we can’t take his or Bonds’ statistics in context with the era they were amassed in, but we would like for these numbers of baseball lore to be as clean as possible. It’s also important to keep in mind that they did face some pitchers who used the same substances, while numbers from Babe Ruth’s era should also be considered tainted because the league did not allow black players. The game changes with time, along with the way fans view it.

So we know A-Rod used steroids for sure. We have strong suspicions that Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa all juiced, too. We suspect a lot of others to some degree, but we can find out for sure about the other 103 players who tested positive during the same season as Rodriguez.

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I want to know who those players are. I just won’t be happy to find out.

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