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COMMENTARY

‘Roids, ‘Noids, and Capitol Mistakes

By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Producer

The big boys of baseball traveled up to the peak of Capitol Hill last Thursday and slid down the other side looking like befuddled, conflicted men.

Called to the nation’s Capitol for a day of sworn testimony on the increasing problem of steroids in sports, specifically Major League Baseball, a panel of subpoenaed sluggers testified what they did and did not know. On the surface, what the five in attendance (a sixth, White Sox first baseman Frank Thomas appeared via video conference) knew did not appear to be much.

Here is what we did learn:

• Retired home run hero Mark McGwire may have hurt his chances of getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame by repeatedly invoking the Fifth Amendment when asked whether he used steroids during his playing career. McGwire, who looked suspiciously grandfatherly in a pair of bi-focals, essentially made a non-admission admission of guilt by consistently refusing to talk about the past.

• Baltimore Orioles outfielder Sammy “whatever he said” Sosa did not offer a great deal of perspective during the proceedings other than testifying that he had never used steroids. In the quote of the day, Sammy stated, "All I can tell you is that I don't have much to tell you." All I can say is, Sammy, I hope you are telling the truth. An orange jumpsuit does not look nearly as good as your Oriole double-knits.

• Baltimore Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro also testified that he had never used steroids. My intuition tells me that he may have been one of the only people telling the truth during the hearings. In addition, Palmeiro vowed that he would do whatever was necessary to help clean up the game. Of course, it is important to note that Rafi will likely retire within the next one to two years.

• Despite contradicting some of the claims he made in his new tell-all book “Juiced”, Jose Canseco, in many ways, came across as being the most credible. He earnestly pleaded with Congress to clean up the game, saying that was the only way the youth of America would get the message.

• Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling played the role of Sergeant Schultz (“I see nothing”) of Hogan’s Heroes fame by stating he knew of less than ten players in his 19 years of professional baseball who used steroids. Come on Curt, the average fan can point out at least five in a season just from observing excessive weight gain from muscle mass and increased power production.

• Then of course, there was the “Lost Clause”. Major League Baseball in its infinite wisdom, or lack thereof, submitted a draft of its new drug policy to Congress before the hearings. The new proposal calls for a player, who tests positive for banned substances, to receive a 10-day suspension or up to a $10,000 fine for the first offense. A 10,000 dollar fine is akin to you or your next door neighbor being fined $100 bucks by the neighborhood association for mowing your lawn too early in the morning. This is not a deterrent, it is a joke.

So, what does all of this mean? It is not everyday that superstar baseball players shed their pinstripes for pinstripe suits. Furthermore, it is not normal for highly paid athletes to sit shoulder to shoulder, answering questions about the drug habits of their peers. Was it nothing more than an opportunity for our national lawmakers to throw baseball players across their knee for a good spanking? Was it a publicity stunt designed to scare Major League Commissioner Bud Selig and Player’s Union Executive Donald Fehr from continuing to look the other way?

I would suggest a pinch and a dash of both.

If nothing else, last week’s hearings raised the level of awareness regarding an increasingly disturbing problem. People discovered that steroid use exists not just in Major League Baseball, but trickles all the way down to youth sports. My heart breaks for parents like Donald Hooten, Sr., who testified on Capitol Hill last week, that his son’s suicide was a direct result of using steroids. Sadly, there are many other parents across this nation just like Mr. Hooten.

If you don’t believe that steroids are a problem at the scholastic level please take note of these startling statistics. According to the California Interscholastic Federation, 11 percent of high school boys and 5 percent of high school girls have taken performance-enhancing drugs.

At first glance, these statistics seem kind of ho-hum, yawn, pass me the remote. However, when you consider that one in ten high school boys and one in 20 girls find it necessary to break the law to increase their athletic productivity, we have a problem.

The general consensus among high school athletes is that if you want to play at the next level, you must become bigger and stronger. And an easy, surefire way to do that is through the use of performance enhancing supplements.

Translation: the pressure to perform creates the pressure to cheat. News Flash -- this is not a problem solely relegated to baseball. It is a problem in this country. People are promised fast and easy results each and every day in a variety of different arenas. Why sweat, slave, and persevere for something when you can get the same result by popping a simple little pill, injecting a miracle serum into your bloodstream, or pay someone else to do the hard work for you.

“Nothing is wrong unless you get caught.”

“Everybody else is doing it.”

“It isn’t hurting anyone else but me.”

Do these quips sound familiar? Our Major League panel may not have uttered these phrases specifically on Capitol Hill last week but many of their baseball brethren likely have in their steroid-use decision making process.

The rationale behind such phrases is to compromise the truth. Popular standards of honesty often differ from what God’s expectations are.

In Leviticus 19:11, Moses writes, “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.”

This is a simple verse but it is packed with undeniable truth. God demands that we think truly, live truly, speak truly, and that we avoid any appearance of dishonesty. These standards are stated unequivocally in His word. God’s love for us should motivate us to live a life of honesty. And it is only through His love that makes true honesty possible. That is a major component of our calling as Christians -- to live in obedience. Unfortunately, many succumb to manipulation through the aforementioned phrases above. It seems daunting, but we all must try to do better.*

As for Major League Baseball and the future, Congress fired a warning last week that if Bud Selig and sons do not clean up their act, than lawmakers will. It is all very unfortunate, considering the forthcoming season should have been one of the most historic on record. San Francisco Giant slugger Barry Bonds (another alleged steroid user) pursuit to eclipse Babe Ruth on his way to Hank Aaron’s all time home run record has now been reduced to a discussion on proper use of the asterisk.

I guess this season is a sad case of ‘wait ‘til next year’. Play ball!

* Information used in this article from The Transformer Study Bible.

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