Exclusive Content   Join Now

Want a hero?
Check drug store

Dec 7, 2004 7:43 AM

Heroes come and heroes go, but somehow it is discouraging and disheartening to learn that everything a hero needs now comes in a bottle, or a needle, and can be found readily in a Las Vegas gym.

These shabby revelations, a continuation of the Balco scandal, should arrive as no surprise in a day when women are soon to be blessed with Intrinsa, a patch worn on the belly to help them meet the challenges of their Viagra-Cialis-Levitra stimulated partners. What kind of a generation those ersatz-fueled unions will create remains to be seen, but the thought is scary, or perhaps enticing to some.

The revelation that the New York Yankees’ Jason Giambi used human growth hormones that can be bought in gyms in this town merely confirms what has long been known — that some of the super athletes are more souped-up than super.

A disturbing question that flows from that is how many of the city’s statuesque showgirls, who also frequent gyms, avail themselves of these artificial body builders? How much is nature and how much came from a chemist? Busts and bottoms from a Balco bottle are a disconcerting thought.

That aside, the Giambi confessions included the fact that when he hit 41 home runs for the Yankees last year he was loaded with several different steroids obtained from Barry Bonds’ weight trainer, Greg Anderson. It made for a great testimonial for kids hoping to grow up to be college or pro stars.

That, and the profanities and shouting of fathers taking out their own athletic shortcomings by screaming at umpires and rival managers in Little League, can lead to a generation of short-fused druggies, emulating the pumped-up stars and weak-minded wannabes-who-couldn’t-be who often parentally serve as their mentors.

There was hope last week in New York, the self-appointed culture capital of the western world, that Giambi might turn himself into "a cautionary tale on the scourge of sports pharmacology." Fat chance.

The scariest thing about Giambi is that he had a $120 million contract, another indicator of the blight of athletes receiving obscene amounts of money for muscles that can be bought in a Vegas gym.

The Lords of Baseball, like the Lords of Basketball after the Pacers-Pistons disgrace, are shocked — simply shocked! — at the revelations of Giambi’s year-old testimony just released. And they were scandalized that the pusher behind all this stuff, Victor Conte Jr., would go on national television and call their drug program a phony joke.

Sportswriter Selena Roberts, one of the best of that tribe, exposed the phoniness when she pointed out that despite the opportunistic chidings of Senator John McCain of Arizona, who jumps in after the fact at every chance to make headlines, major league baseball is not seeking the help of anti-doping experts, nor is the players’ great defender, their union boss Donald Fehr.

The truth is that the players’ union’s goal is to protect players, not to moralize or take strong steps to curb the problem. If baseball players are in fact role models — however frightening that prospect can be in situations like these — Fehr is paid by players, not kids, and he will do what he needs to protect the players from harm, their own or anyone else’s.

Fehr and baseball’s executives have promised "to discuss" the problem at meetings this week. That likely means more lip service, more gesturing and posturing, but little real reform. And the reported drug use of Jason Giambi and Barry Bonds will be emulated by others seeking fame and fortune through chemistry.

The hard truth in all this cheating came, with some surprise, from Charlie Francis, the former coach of Ben Johnson, the once-upon-a-time track star turned drug store client.

"Steroids are so ubiquitous, so omnipresent in sport," Francis said, "and have been for decades."

Much has been said and written about "level playing fields" in sports, including horse racing, which shares the problem with professional athletics.

The last word on level playing fields came from Charlie Francis, too.

"There is a level playing field out there," he said. "It just isn’t the playing field you thought it was."