Posted: Thursday June 8, 2006 5:16PM; Updated: Thursday June 8, 2006 10:01PM
Jason Grimsley may have implicated other major leaguers in the use of performance-enhancing drugs.
Larry W. Smith/Getty Images
Fans, you have a decision to make. In the matter of banned performance-enhancing substances, do you care or not? Would you prefer to watch sporting events without regard to whether your heroes' performances are natural or aided? Or do you want to see sports cleaned up?
This, in the wake of the revelation that veteran major league pitcher Jason Grimsley was using human growth hormone to prolong his career and during interviews with federal agents -- including Jeff Moritz, lead agent in the BALCO investigation -- apparently implicated many other players.
This unfolding Grimsley case has the potential to throw back the curtain on the entire culture of performance enhancers in baseball (with tentacles into other sports as well). It seems likely that soon the blacked-out names in the court documents will become public. It will be evident that hundreds of professional baseball players, most of whom are not chasing Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, have been assisted by science.
Smart people have suspected -- known, even -- for some time that HGH was the logical successor to steroids in baseball (and football, and any other sport requiring strength, speed or endurance, which is to say, most sports) once random testing for steroids was approved. Home run numbers in baseball were at steroid-era levels this year; NFL offensive linemen are not getting any smaller.
Consider: Among insiders, the track and field competition at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta was called "The HGH Games'' because of the underground knowledge that so many top athletes were using the substance. Drug-testing had advanced to the point where many conventional steroids were easily detectable, but there was at that time no reliable -- or approved -- test for HGH. HGH occurs naturally in the body, making detection a challenge.
In '96 word got around that one of the side effects of HGH use was a mild deformation in the jawbone and resultant crooked teeth. This sounded like an urban legend at the time, but track writers agreed at the time that they had never seen so many adults suddenly wearing braces on their teeth. It became a running joke, much like back acne had prompted rolling eyes in an earlier era. (back acne, of course, being a side effect of anabolic steroid use).