Thursday, July 16, 2009

Phat Albert is juicing!

You’ve heard it here first: Albert Pujols is on steroids.

I have no facts to support that claim and I’m not going to even try to prove that statement. It’s a pessimistic theory based on my belief that most professional athletes are willing to go to great lengths in order to be successful.

I realize that not everybody with muscles is on steroids. I realize that there are people out there who are just freaks of nature. I also believe that a freak of nature can take steroids and/or human growth hormone to enhance their abilities to even freakier levels, like 32 home runs at the all star break for instance.

People will get angry with me for making such a statement. They might even question my journalistic integrity, but I’m a guy writing a blog right now, not a journalist. I am an officer of the court of public opinion. It’s my duty to rush to judgment.

Major League Baseball is proud of its drug program and fans actually believe that the game has been cleaned up. They’re buying A-Rod’s story that he dabbled in steroids because he was young and stupid and give him the benefit of the doubt today. I think A-Rod’s still taking them. He makes enough money to get his hands on the really good stuff--the undetectable drugs that BALCO used to crank out before they got greedy and left their fingerprints behind for the FBI. Marion Jones never tested positive for steroids even though she admitted to taking them. She passed the International Olympic Committee's tests. Tests that make Major League Baseball’s drug program look like a Facebook quiz.

And that’s the real reason I think Pujols is on the juice. Major League Baseball wants him on it. They want all their players on it because homeruns sell tickets. Triple crown winners sell tickets. Without steroids, baseball would look a lot like it did 25 years ago. A couple of beefy sluggers surrounded by skinny guys from Latin America.

Maintaining 240 pounds of solid muscle isn’t hard to do if that’s all you have to do, but combine that responsibility with the rigors of playing 162 games and it’s virtually impossible. When do these guys have time to recover? If they’re taking steroids they don’t need to.

Even though I watched Manny Ramirez get bigger each year, he was the last person I figured would be a juicer. It’s not that he demonstrated a great deal of integrity, but he’s just such a flake I never would have pegged him for taking an interest. It turns out I was wrong.

It didn’t shock me, because as stupid as Manny seems to be the guy does love his cash and in the sports world steroids can mean an extra $10 million in guaranteed money. If Manny connected the dots, he’d take steroids and if Manny can see the logic in taking them so can Albert.

I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but unless he enters the Tour de France and passes their battery of drug tests I don’t know how he can. Barry Bonds insisted that he never took steroids and dared people to prove it, then they’d offer to test his urine and he’d be too busy, or he'd object to the spirit of the test. His name was linked to the BALCO investigation that sent Marion Jones to prison by way of perjury and if Victor Conti ever gets tired of stewing behind bars Bonds could do a few years as well. So it’s not hard to believe that Albert’s sitting on a dirty little secret too.

I’ll admit that I’m taking an easy position. If Albert tests positive for steroids in the next few years I’ll be able to point to this and people can pat me on the back for having the balls to stand up and claim something stank. If he never tests positive I can act like he got lucky, or blame the wide world of sports for fueling my righteous skepticism. I can’t lose.

So what’s the point? The point is I don’t want to be this way. I’d like to see all the major sports take a hard stance against steroids. In cycling athletes are suspended if they are simply associated with cheating. They don’t have to test positive. If Lance Armstrong’s dentist is dealing HGH on the side Lance gets banned. During the Tour de France, and a number of other events, cyclists are being tested every couple of days. In the Olympics test are conducted before, during and after the games. Doping is taken very seriously and violators aren’t suspended for a few weeks or even a few months; it’s years. There’s no warning. Test positive one time and you sit out for two years, test positive again and you’re done.

In the NFL players get slapped with a four game suspension if they test positive for steroids. There are 280 pound defensive ends running the 40 yard dash in 4.6 seconds but the NFL feels its testing policy is adequate. They feel that a 4 game suspension is enough to discourage steroid use. Really? How discouraging is it when a guy can test positive for steroids and sign a contract extension six weeks later?

Baseball’s 50 game suspension sounds pretty stiff but it’s not much more severe than the NFL’s. Manny missed about a third of the season but he got to sharpen his skills at the minor league level during that period. Now he’s back, the Dodgers are favored to win the NL West and Manny’s probably going to bat cleanup in the postseason. At his age, the 50 games off are probably beneficial. Oh, and Manny will still make more money this year than most people will earn in three lifetimes.

The way it’s structured, athletes are stupid not to take steroids. The testing procedures are laughable and the penalties for people stupid enough to get caught are minor. With the kind of money being throw around, why not?

So, yeah, I think Albert Pujols is on steroids. Prove me wrong.

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