Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can A-Rod's Admission Spur Baseball's Cleanup?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Can A-Rod's Admission Spur Baseball's Cleanup?

Article excerpt

Superstar Alex Rodriguez's admission that he used steroids earlier this decade probably won't be the only blow for Major League Baseball this year.

A grand jury is considering whether Roger Clemens lied to Congress about using performance-enhancing substances. Barry Bonds is facing perjury charges for his grand jury testimony about drug use. And on Wednesday, Miguel Tejada is expected to plead guilty to lying to Congress about his knowledge of other players' steroid use. Since 2003, however, Major League Baseball has taken steps to clean up its act - and Mr. Rodriguez's admission could be a catalyst for doing even more. Now, the major leagues have mandatory, random drug testing and penalties. And in what could be a sign of things to come, the minor leagues have developed an even more rigorous testing program.

Don Catlin, who helped establish the current minor league program, sees hope that its elements could be transferred to the major leagues. "They're much less resistant than ever before," says Dr. Catlin, one of the world's top authorities on sports doping.

Still, revelations about steroids in baseball use are not likely to end anytime soon. As part of the Bonds investigation, the government seized urine samples from 2003 that came up positive for illicit drugs involving 104 baseball players. Rodriguez so far is the only one publicly identified.

Even President Obama weighed in Monday on the steroids issue. At his press conference in the evening, he called the Rodriguez news "depressing," adding that it "tarnishes an entire era, to some degree." But Mr. Obama also said he was pleased that Major League Baseball "seems to be finally taking this seriously, to recognize how big a problem this is for the sport, and that our kids hopefully are watching and saying, 'You know what? There are no shortcuts.' "

The major leagues are making progress, with a lead from the minors, which are freer to act because they don't have a union. In 2002, the Players Association and baseball's commissioner agreed on a new testing program based on one piloted in minor league baseball the year before.

However, both the Commissioner's Office and the Players Association have "retained exclusive authority over the most important aspects" of the program, according to the landmark Mitchell Report on steroids in December 2007. George Mitchell, a former senator, therefore said that the program "still falls short of true independence."

But in addition to resistance to a more-rigorous testing system, there's another major hurdle: the financial cost to keep up with the latest doping regimes. Since Major League Baseball began mandatory random testing for steroids in 2004, players intent on cheating have switched to human growth hormone (HGH), concluded the Mitchell Report. HGH is also banned.

No reliable urine test exists for HGH, and the Players Association has opposed blood testing. …

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