Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Running Afoul of Steroids

March 30, 2004

Opening day organ salutes and fireworks festivities can't disguise the cloud over Major League Baseball this year: its failure to institute a credible drug-testing policy that would end steroid abuse. Baseball imperiously ignored nudges even from the White House and Congress to adopt a tough drug-testing policy during the off-season. So suspicion hangs over today's opening day (albeit in Tokyo with the New York Yankees against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays), with fans chewing on the implications of federal indictments against four men, including slugger Barry Bonds' trainer, on charges of illegal steroid distribution.

The ultimate victims of baseball's resistance are young people. Scholastic and collegiate baseball players remain under pressure to achieve the same unnatural physical proportions as their big-league idols. The results can be long-term health damage, even death.

California legislators heard testimony last week about the suicides of a 24-year-old former USC player and a 17-year-old Texan that their parents linked to steroid abuse. As one distraught father testified: "Knowingly or unknowingly, our kids continue to be pressed to use steroids." A recent survey suggests that 13% of high school boys and 10% of girls used or knew someone who used anabolic steroids.

Better hitting through chemistry also infuriates older fans who wonder if the flurry of assaults on batting records once thought untouchable merits explanatory asterisks. Yet the players' union stands by its foolish argument that testing is a privacy issue, and owners meekly back away from reforms that would upset what fans clearly love to see -- baseballs knocked far out of the park.

Opening day should signal a blank slate and hope that springs eternal, even for hapless Detroit Tigers fans who last year watched their team fall two fortunate games short of breaking the big-league record for most losses in a single season.

Baseball is a big-money game. Those dollars come from the pockets of fans with plenty of other entertainment options. The exposure of rosters populated by chemically enhanced impostors will dull the home-run thrill, and ticket sales will certainly suffer. If the owners and the union think they can ignore the problem until it fades, good luck to them. Retired Oakland A's slugger Jose Canseco says he plans to be frank about his and others' steroid use in an autobiography to be published right before the World Series.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|