05/14/09 — OPINION -- Steroid era ruining baseball

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OPINION -- Steroid era ruining baseball

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on May 14, 2009 1:46 PM

There was a time when baseball left me in awe and reverence for the men who played the game I grew to love.

In recent years my passion for the sport that played such a vital role in my childhood has transformed from an innocent joy to a confusion fueled by burning suspicion and endless doubt.

Baseball's steroid era has turned the game as I knew it on its head and left fans like me no longer surprised when another one of our heroes tests positive for a banned substance.

Manny Ramirez, Major League Baseball's latest larger-than-life figure to violate its drug policy, is a further reminder that it is becoming growingly difficult to know which players are playing the game with integrity and those simply out for personal gain.

Ramirez admitted last Thursday after being hit with a 50-game suspension to using human chorionic gonadotropin, a women's fertility drug that boosts testosterone levels.

HGC helps steroid users restart their body's natural testosterone production as they come off a steroid cycle. It is similar to Clomid, the drug Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi have been accused of using.

Ramirez claimed to see a physician for a "personal health issue", who Ramirez says gave him a medication -- not a steroid -- which the doctor thought was okay to give the Dodgers' slugger.

Instead of seeing the team doctor for this "personal health issue" that arose during spring training like most major leaguers do, Ramirez opted to see a doctor in Florida. This seems awfully odd considering the Dodgers held spring training in Arizona more than 2,000 miles away from this physician in Florida.

Not only do admitted steroid users such as Ramirez and Alex Rodriguez, along with those unwilling to accept guilt like Roger Clemens and Bonds tarnish the game, they also taint the reputations of their peers.

No longer are perennial All-Stars and guys believed to be clean immune from the whispers of suspicion for doing what they're paid to do -- produce.

Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals seven-time All-Star and two-time National League MVP, has hit over .314 or better in every season since 2001. He's also averaged 39 homers and more than 100 RBI a year during that span.

Despite being viewed as clean and a generally good guy by those around the league, the misdeeds of others have unfortunately lumped superstars like Pujols into the same category of suspicion.

Pujols and many others around the league may have a squeaky clean image today, but it's safe to say waking up in the morning to find out Pujols had tested positive for a banned substance may hardly register on the richter scale of surprise.

Not only is baseball tarnished by some of its biggest stars committing what many to believe an unpardonable sin, but their inclusion into one of its grandest spectacles is equally as appalling.

Rodriguez returned to the Yankees' lineup last weekend following rehab from a hip injury, while Ramirez is eligible to rejoin the Dodgers on July 3 following his suspension. Both players are likely candidates to make the All-Star teams for their respective leagues on July 14 in St. Louis.

Major League Baseball could do itself and its fans a huge favor by banning violators of its drug policy from its All-Star game the same way the NFL did with the Pro Bowl a few years ago.

Thanks to guys like Ramirez, Bonds and Clemens, baseball will forever be mired in debates over Hall of Fame resumes, the purity of the game and the endangered species known as the role model.

If I learned anything last week it was that a guy with flowing braids, a folk hero persona and his own section of Dodger Stadium known as "Mannywood," should have the section's name changed to "Even Manny Would."