We knew, of course, that some baseball players are juiced. All you have to do is look at them. Look at the 450-foot homers. Look at the statistics.
Look at the injury reports, for crying out loud.
We knew it. The question was not if players were using steroids, but how many of them were doing it, and how much of it they were doing. And at what cost.
Well, now Major League Baseball has 'fessed up. Kind of.
Yes, players are using anabolic steroids, the league admitted. Somewhere between 5 and 7 percent of the 1,438 tests done during the 2003 season -- on every player, plus 240 re-tests, just for good measure -- turned up positive. That's somewhere around 86 tests, if you take the middle ground and figure 6 percent.
You can do the math, but if you believe these numbers, at least a few dozen Major League Baseball players -- 36ish, maybe more, maybe less -- probably are using performance enhancing drugs. On the average, at least one on every team.
But, you know, that's a lot fewer than many people thought. Famed 'roids users and former players Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti, guys who were on the inside, guessed a lot higher than that. So when the numbers were announced last week, you could practically hear commissioner Bud Selig's buttons popping.
Unfortunately -- and you'll have to pardon the journalistic skepticism on this -- it's simply hard to believe.
"I think we'd be very, very na´ve," said Dr. Tracy Olrich, a sports psychologist at Central Michigan University who specializes in the use of anabolic steroids, "if we believe that we're looking at that drug-free of a sport."
The problem lies in the difference between what many thought would be the outcome of the testing and what turned out to be the case when the testing was done. It's just too great.
There could be any number of explanations for that, of course. The advance notice that baseball gave its players could have helped to push the number of positive tests lower. It was plenty of time for users to get off the stuff and turn a potentially positive test into a negative one.
The recently discovered steroid THG, the one that has spurred subpoenas and has brought such big-name baseball stars as Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi into the spotlight, was not tested for. Guys could have been using that and it would not have been detected.
The sophisticated steroid user -- and you have to believe there are some of those -- may have found ways to beat the tests, through masking agents or some other under handed method.
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"There are always ways to beat these tests," said Olrich, a former nationally competitive bodybuilder who never has used steroids. In fact, Olrich says with all the designer steroids and masking agents out there and the sophistication of users, there's no excuse for testing positive.
"I really believe that if you're at that level and you have the connections you have, you should never test positive," he said.
To be fair, the reason for the relatively low number of positive tests might be something else entirely, something not nearly as sinister as cheating or taking an unrecognizedátype of steroid. It might be, simply, that players finally got a conscience and realized that performance-enhancing drugs are not good either for the game or for the body. It might be that those who aren't on the stuff started to exert enough pressure on the ones who are that the users began to buckle. It might be the fear of being caught.
But come on. We know. We know.
This is noátime for celebrating. It's no time for baseball toádrop the broom. There's a lot to clean up. Probably more than anyone realizes.