Go figure. Bud Selig, the dope who slept through most of baseball's doping scandal, tells Congress that he bears full responsibility for what has happened to his sport, and then a couple of days later he accepts a three-year contract extension.
This is how you take responsibility? Why not take the door and get out?
Both Selig and Donald Fehr, director of the players union, have stated that they are responsible for baseball's current mess, and they are. Selig became enamored with the steroid-fueled home-run barrage like everyone else and especially with the profits that followed. For years he did nothing serious about steroids, even in the face of the many warning signs, until it was way too late and he was pressured into acting. Fehr fought testing protocols and punishment, hiding behind the collective bargaining agreement and saying he was protecting the players.
Meanwhile, no one was protecting the game.
Now, finally, they say they are responsible, but they both have jobs.
Selig sounds a lot like Juan Antonio Samaranch these days. In the wake of the Olympic bidding scandal, he insisted on sticking around to clean up the mess he and the International Olympic Committee created and did nothing about for decades. Now Selig says he wants to do the same thing. Somehow, you figure he's just not quite up to the task.
Meanwhile, you'd think NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL players union director Gene Upshaw are paying attention, but they're not. They should learn from the mistakes made by Selig and Fehr; instead, they are repeating them.
The NFL's testing program is soft and inadequate. It has been criticized by the World Anti-Doping Agency, but Upshaw has rejected any talk of meeting WADA standards. He also has resisted blood tests, which are necessary to detect Human Growth Hormone, offering this wimpy excuse:
"With the blood test, they're taking it from you by sticking you with the needle," says Upshaw. "They might be big, tough football players, but they don't like getting poked with a big needle. I know I don't."
Upshaw hides, Fehrlike, behind the collective bargaining agreement when urged to suspend players where evidence warrants it, even if they have passed drug tests. He refused to follow the lead of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, which suspended several Olympic-caliber athletes who passed drug tests but had substantial evidence against them. Testing programs are not enough Marion Jones, who confessed to rampant steroid use, passed 160 drug tests and never failed one.
The NFL is also shockingly weak on punishment. Shawne Merriman and Rodney Harrison drew meager four-game suspensions for positive tests. Track athletes get two years for first offenses. In baseball, it's 50 games. In the NFL, it's four.
"Football, four games for steroids. Frankly, that is not serious," former WADA president Dick Pound said, noting that Merriman still had "the advantage of steroids" after returning to the game. Merriman also returned from his suspension in time to play in the Pro Bowl.
(It's no coincidence that the football and baseball are weak on punishing rich athletes while track and field is tough on athletes of humbler means who, for the most part, can't even make a living from their sport.)
History is repeating itself. Upshaw and the NFL are going down the exact same path that Selig and Fehr led baseball down several years ago.
There have been plenty of red flags popping up around the NFL to awaken Goodell and Upshaw to the existence of a problem in the league. A few years ago a doctor pleaded guilty to providing steroids and HGH to, among others, members of the Carolina Panthers. The NFL did nothing about it.
Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski stated on national TV that he used steroids and HGH, though he never tested positive. Other players have described steroid use in the NFL, including Lyle Alzado (dead at 43), John Matuszak (dead at 38), Steve Courson and Jim Haslett (who says steroid use was rampant 25 years ago).
The biggest mystery is why nobody is putting the NFL under the microscope a la baseball, or why the NFL is failing to act before it has a baseball-size mess on its hands.
Is there anyone naive enough to believe the NFL doesn't have at least as many athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs as baseball players? What other athlete has more to gain from steroids and HGH than football players?
Meanwhile, the size of players in the NFL has increased alarmingly, as has the speed of the game, and with it injuries have soared.And yet few seemed alarmed by the NFL's problem, even while there is an outcry over baseball. Goodell, Upshaw and the NFL could suffer the same fate as Selig, Fehr and baseball. It's time for the NFL to wake up and smell the Deca-Durabolin.
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