Another steroids bombshell has dropped on the baseball world, and the usual wave of hysteria from the media and Congress has followed. Let's step back and try to take an objective look at where we are in this developing story and where we are headed, beginning with the topic that is first and foremost on everybody's minds: The names on the Jason Grimsleysearch warrant affidavit.
According to Sports Illustrated's legal expert, Lester Munson, the names will be public knowledge soon enough. The federal agents are likely to call for another grand jury and have the 10-to-12 players whose names are blacked out subpoenaed for questioning. If nothing else, the identities will be known when the players arrive for their court hearings. "One way or another, we're going to find out those names," Munson says.
Once convened, don't expect this grand jury to be anywhere near as productive in unearthing information about performance-enhancing drugs as the BALCO grand jury. Knowing in advance that the sealed testimony is likely to leak to the media, anybody who divulges anything of use would be doing so against the advice of a competent lawyer. They will take the fifth if they know what is good for them.
This is and always has been about one man, Barry Bonds, and the quest of another man, IRS agent Jeff Novitzky, to nail him. According to a report in today's Arizona Republic, Grimsley's lawyer said his client stopped cooperating with the feds when they "tried to pressure his client into wearing a listening device to try to get other major league players to divulge incriminating evidence against Giants slugger Barry Bonds." The more dirt they can get on Bonds now, the stronger their case when and if they indict him on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.
Why the obsession over Bonds? Is it simply because he is so close to the all-time home run record? The amount of manpower and effort put into this initiative by the government is surprising to Munson, who says nowadays we only see this in terrorist cases. "Bonds is the ultimate prize of this investigation," he says. And what would it mean for Novitzky to get him? "It's a career maker," Munson says. It's Eliot Ness vs. Al Capone all over again.
Predictably, there is now a furor among media and congressman to have baseball institute a test for Human Growth Hormone, which is what Grimsley said he took exclusively once MLB began to test for steroids in earnest. (At this point, I have to stop myself from laughing at the fact that there as been no such similar outcry for HGH testing in the NFL all these years.)
The problem is, there is no test for HGH. According to Will Carroll, co-author of The Juice: The Real Story of Baseball's Drug Problems and an expert in all things medical in the world of baseball for Baseball Prospectus, we are still about two years away from a reliable blood test for HGH, and there will never be a urine test for it. That Olympic testing that took place in Turin? It was a bluff. Olympic officials are merely storing the blood samples they took in hopes of being able to retro-test for HGH and any other designer drugs that are unknown for as of yet.
Anabolic steroids such as Deca Durabolin and HGH are not the same thing. Not even close. The human body produces HGH on its own; adding more of it just increases the effect of the hormone. Whereas the positive effect steroids have on on-field performance is still unproven, there is no doubt what HGH can do for you: "It makes you into a Super You," Carroll says. "It does everything." Not only that, but if you take HGH alone, in the right doses and under medical supervision, it doesn't have nearly the same side affects as anabolic steroids. Although it may cause some problems in the long term that are still unknown, in the short term there is almost no downside to HGH if you do it right. Plus, it has that wonderful added bonus of not being tested for. Is it any wonder this has become the drug of choice for ballplayers?
Carroll says he has reason to believe that some players have graduated to something beyond HGH. It's called increlex, and it's "exceptionally effective."
What do you think the ETA is for an effective drug test on that one?