Are Sports Media More Juiced Over Baseball Steroid Use?
with the continued fallout from the BALCO scandal, baseball is receiving a huge -- and some might say, disproportionate -- share of attention as the whipping boy for performance enhancing drugs. While the stray Floyd Landis or Justin Gatlin might seize the headlines temporarily as sports' resident cheater du jour, it's a virtual lock that the focus will eventually drift back to baseball.
Just for fun, we Googled the words "Bud Selig" and "steroids" and came up with 263,000 matches. A similar search for departing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue yielded a mere 33,900 matches...
New York Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman recently asked a compelling question: If Dr. James Shortt, the team physician who received a jail sentence for dispensing illegal performance enhancing drugs to the Carolina Panthers, had worked in baseball, wouldn't the headlines and the furor have been appreciably bigger?
This is meant as no sign of disrespect to our colleagues in the football writing profession, but the media's seemingly blind acceptance of the NFL as an environment free of performance-enhancing drugs seems rather farfetched.
In case you didn't know, linebacker Bill Romanowski plays a strong supporting role to Bonds in "Game of Shadows." Carolina players allegedly referred to the NFL's drug testing policy as "almost a joke," and the number of 300-pounders in football camps this summer has swelled to nearly 430...
"If anybody has the perception that steroid use is worse in baseball than other sports, they're mistaken," said ['Game of Shadows' co-author Mark] Fainaru-Wada. "Baseball gets treated the way it does because it was so slow to deal with the issue and acted more defiantly than anybody else."
And, last week, ESPN.com columnist Tim Keown:
Two steroid-related news items showed up this week...One of them is highly publicized and will continue to be. The other one hasn't received much attention at all, and probably won't.
Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds' trainer, is on his way back to prison after refusing, once again, to answer questions before a grand jury. You've got to figure his loyalty to Bonds is tied to a huge offshore bank account and a home in Tahiti. Regardless, you've probably already seen a lot of this story, with Anderson's big head all over the prints and the tube for at least a few days to come.
In the other story, the Charlotte Observer did a bang-up job reporting the federal steroid case against the Carolina Panthers.
Consider some of the stuff they uncovered: Three of the Panthers' starting offensive linemen from the 2004 Super Bowl team had what amounts to perpetual prescriptions for steroids. According to the Observer, less than a week before the team left Charlotte for the Super Bowl, two of them -- starting tackle Todd Steussie and practice-squad lineman Louis Williams -- were given prescriptions for five different banned substances.
The players were routinely given prescriptions for testosterone that could be refilled five times. Steussie and starting guard Kevin Donnalley received three of those for a cream, effectively allowing them 18 courses of the drug...
This is wild -- guys are presumably shooting up in the week leading up to the Super Bowl, yet the NFL still gets away with saying it has the most comprehensive, foolproof testing system in sports.
It seems the outrage is reserved solely for baseball. When they pull this kind of news out of a football locker room it barely elicits a shrug. Why is that? Is it because there are no records in danger of being broken by an offensive lineman?
Or is it because we expect it from football players, and our lack of response is merely a reflection of our lack of surprise?