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Steroids the more manly drug choice

August 04, 2005|By TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

When a dude's main claim to fame, other than sports, is as a high-profile pitchman for drugs, what's the big surprise when it turns out that he is ? news flash ? taking drugs?

Would we be surprised if it turned out that Lee Iacocca actually drove a Chrysler?

Rafael Palmeiro has been chatting up the wonders of modern chemistry for years now, as a spokesman for performance-enhancing Viagra. Now he's suspended for 10 days after testing positive for performance-enhancing steroids. So? What's the difference? If we're going to create and live in a pharmaceutical culture, this is the price we pay.

I know what a lot of 45-year-old white males named Tim think about this, so I think I speak with authority when I say we would be a LOT more embarrassed about the Viagra admission than the steroid admission.

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You get enough beers in you at the bar, and yeah, sure, you might come clean and own up to popping a 'roid or two. On the other hand, no guy is going to admit to ? to THAT. Certainly not in a bar, and certainly ? certainly not on national television. "Hi America. I am less than a man."

Uh, negative on that. Yeah, you and I might do it for $5 million, because nobody outside of Hagerstown knows who we are, and we can always take the money and run to St. Augustine. But pro athletes already have millions of dollars. For them, this is telling the world that your cuffs ain't got no starch for the equivalent of pocket change.

Come to think of it, doesn't steroid use cause, um, what's the delicate word ? shrivelage? Maybe he had to take the Viagra to counteract the side effects of the cream and the clear. Ah, it's all coming together.

I'm curious what a woman would think of this. If a ballplayer's records are tainted by steroids, are a regular guy's records tainted by Viagra? Would a woman say to her girlfriend, "Yeah, he was quite the player, but he did it while taking performance-enhancing drugs, so it doesn't really count."

I'll be right upfront, I love Raffy. He and that musical swing been faves of mine for years. So I am inclined to defend him. Heck, even if he hadn't lied to Congress, I'd still defend him. So he lied to Congress? Too bad. Maybe now Congress knows how it feels.

Raffy sharply told Congress he had "never taken steroids. Period." Hey, this could all be a big case of mistaken punctuation. If he'd just told Congress, "I have never taken steroids. Semicolon."

... And then just not filled in the second independent clause, he might have been OK.

What has to be the most painful thing for the Orioles first baseman right now, is that he has made Jose Canseco look like George Washington. Yes, Canseco, the goofy, whistle-blowing outfielder who once had a baseball literally bounce off his head and over the fence for a home run now looks as if he's been telling the truth all along. Who ever would have guessed that?

Of course, some of the steroids saga was a no-brainer. Curious, wasn't it, how in the Year of the Steroid, Barry Bonds suddenly remembered he had to grout his tub this season and hasn't been heard from since? No doubt the Man in the Iron Masking Agent is scurrying about the lab looking for some replacement technology.

And based on early returns, Palmeiro isn't even taking the worst hit over this week's news. No, that honor goes to the Yankees' Jason Giambi, who was once called to testify about steroid use before a grand jury.

For those who don't follow sports, here's the timeline: Prior to last season, Giambi was huge in both size and slugging prowess. Then, after being tied to the Balco steroid investigation, he shrank up to the size of your hat and for the first couple of months of this season, he couldn't knock a ball off a hitting tee. Then starting in July, like flipping a switch, he's back to his old size and hitting form.

Raffy's bust allowed an avalanche of sports commentators to say on the airwaves this week what they'd been thinking for a month: Giambi's back on the juice and his chemists have just found something to cover it up. It's like they say ? year in and year out, the big-market teams will always be able to afford the best farm(acy) systems.

The lesson here is that steroids are bad, but from a ballplayer's perspective, irrelevancy is worse. And who can blame them? Ban steroids? May as well ban Pfizer. Drugs are all around us, and the fine line between good and bad has been wiped into oblivion. In fact, you have to take one fistful of drugs to counteract the side effects of the first fistful you took. I even saw one ad for a stomachache drug, and one of the listed potential side effects of the pill was, I am not kidding, stomachaches.

Breaking the rules? That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that baseball players are just playing the rules big pharma has been pushing on us for at least two decades. Neither scenario is terribly appealing.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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