With the fading of the Roger Clemens saga and the continued absence of Barry Bonds from big league rosters, Major League Baseball finally thought the worst of the steroid era had passed. Saturday, MLB commissioner Bud Selig and player’s union head Donald Fehr were reminded, yet again, of the terrible staying power and pervasiveness steroids have in the league.
With the unveiling of a Sports Illustrated report pinning New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez to a positive steroid test in 2003, baseball found its legitimacy assailed once more.
A-Rod was supposed to be the game’s golden boy, as pure and clean as a player could be, and the heir to the tainted Barry Bonds’ home run crown. Now, Rodriguez joins the host of shamed sluggers unmasked before him.
However, unlike many of those who preceded him in scandal, Rodriguez came right out, apologized to his fans and admitted to his doping history — sort of. At least that’s what some members of the media would have you believe.
In an interview with ESPN’s Peter Gammons Monday, Rodriguez admitted to taking performance-enhancing drugs over an ill-defined three-year period with the Texas Rangers.
Unfortunately, Gammons seemed so overjoyed on landing the first interview with Rodriguez that he and his network completely abandoned any journalistic pretensions, throwing up softball questions and completely failing to press A-Rod on the more nebulous parts of the story.
During the half-hour interview, Rodriguez stubbornly avoided the term “performance-enhancing drug” and uttered the word “steroid” only once. His admission was six words: “I did take a banned substance.”
Rodriguez repeatedly refused to admit to taking any particular substance, claiming he was unaware of what he was using and blaming the culture of the time.
Gammons then failed to ask Rodriguez to specify the time period during which he took performance enhancers, allowing A-Rod an outlet, asking if the period was from 2001 to 2003.
A-Rod’s response was less than reassuring. “That’s pretty accurate, yes.”
Does A-Rod really expect the public to believe that his steroid use was limited to a short period based on that response? After all, didn’t he deny ever taking any performance-enhancing drugs in an interview with Katie Couric last year?
Rodriguez’s so-called admission turned even more bizarre, when later the slugger launched a malicious attack on SI reporter Selena Roberts who broke the story with colleague David Epstein. In an unprompted aside, A-Rod maligned Roberts’ reporting as “lies,” claiming the she was stalking him and trying to break into his house. citing a non-existent Miami Beach police report.
Little evidence exists to indicate that Rodriguez is being any more truthful than in past interviews when he flat-out denied his drug use.
It may be that his use of performance-enhancing drugs was confined to a short period, but vague terminology and ambivalent admissions coupled with past lies erode any trust in A-Rod.
As Rodriguez is exposed to far harsher questioners, new details are likely to emerge. This story is far from its conclusion.
E-mail Matt Poms at email@example.com