Ballplayers may soon have more to fear than positive tests
BY JIM LITKE
AP SPORTS COLUMNIST
Question their motives, but baseball commissioner Bud Selig and his counterparts from around the world of sports were right about this much: The fight against doping won't be won simply by applying pressure from the top down.
So buckle up. Events this week suggest their prayers are about to be answered.
Recent raids against different kinds of operations carried out by different law-enforcement agencies in different locales appear to have opened a new front in the fight against doping. Somebody finally thought to call in the real cops.
Eight people in three states were arrested, as many as two dozen could face felony charges soon and a few new names - Angels outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., and former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield - became grist for the rumor mills.
We could argue for days about how committed the people in charge of big-time sports have been. Or whether doping is really bad for business, since attendance, TV contracts and revenues have all swelled along with the supersizing of the games.
The argument about what the efforts against doping have yielded so far? That wouldn't last as long as this sentence.
Baseball was forced into drug testing in earnest just two seasons ago, but the NFL started nearly two decades earlier, and the Olympic movement has been on the case - with much more diligence - as far back as the mid-1960s.
There have been high-profile busts - Ben Johnson; cautionary tales - Lyle Alzado, who blamed steroids for the brain cancer that killed him; a raft of congressional hearings; public-service campaigns; and best-selling books. All these things have merely created more cheats - and richer and more sophisticated cheats.
What's surprising, on the other hand, is why the real cops haven't stepped in before now. Testing athletes, after all, is one thing. Having cops armed with subpoenas breaking down the doors of homes and businesses involved in the supply chain is another.
It's been done on occasion - see BALCO investigation - and talked about for years. Dick Pound has used the World Anti-Doping Agency as a bully pulpit since the agency hung out a sign in 1999. But his relish for controversy and occasionally reckless, heavy-handed conduct has undercut the message. No matter. The Controlled Substances Act passed in 2004 gave a stick to any prosecutor ambitious enough to wield it. The day Pound has been heralding all this years could be just around the corner.
``I think the future of the fight of doping in sports is going to involve more and more government agencies,'' he said again earlier this week. ``They're the ones who have power to invest and resources to invest. They have ability to seize evidence.''
And they're becoming less shy about using them at every level of the supply chain, from unethical doctors to former Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley to Internet distribution networks that may provide performance-enhancers to thousands.
Unless I'm mistaken, having authorities fan out and make arrests in an attempt to choke off supply is how Prohibition and the War on Drugs began.
There may be a way to stop doping, but first there has be a will.
So good luck to everyone building cases and being sent out on raids in the latest push against doping. They're going to need it. Because as popular as the campaign sounds, my guess is that support for it runs only so deep.
It's hard to imagine the same audience that actors try to appease by using Botox and home-run hitters lure to ballparks by loading up on human growth hormone is prepared to settle for wrinkles and records that stand for decades.
Everybody else in society, from first-year law students to corporate chieftains trying to win a promotion, is on something to look, feel or do their work better. It wasn't that long ago, after all, that Newsweek magazine pointed out, ``You want to see performance enhancement in sports, look courtside at a Lakers game.''
It's already an instant-gratification world outside the lines that sports has drawn. Until that changes, it's unrealistic to think that sports and its heroes will be coaxed, coerced or even bullied into behaving any differently than the rest of us.