I’ve become numb to finding out they used steroids

Published 10:11 am Thursday, June 18, 2009

A little over 10 years ago, two baseball players named Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire set out on a race to break Roger Maris’ Major League Baseball (MLB) homerun record.

At the time it seemed to not only be a season of making history but an effort that, following a fan base that still had not forgiven MLB for allowing a strike, might just save baseball from itself.

Many baseball fans and media members believed that Sosa and McGuire were using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) during that time, but neither wanted to lift the curtain on what was perceived as a magical season.

When speculation of Sosa’s drug use became confirmation on the New York Times website with the news that he had tested positive for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) in 2003, what was once looked upon as a miraculous season now just seems sad and mundane.

Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that Sosa was using PEDs in 1998 during his stretch of three straight seasons of at least 60 home runs? His story may be different when he addresses the media, but I for one can no longer believe anything that comes out of his mouth.

Remember it was Sosa who sat in front of the House Government Reform Committee in March of 2005 (beside his good buddies Rafael Palmeiro and Jose Canseco) and testified “To be clear, I have never taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

“I have never injected myself or had anyone inject me with anything,” Sosa told congress. “I have not broken the laws of the United States or the laws of the Dominican Republic. I have been tested as recently as 2004, and I am clean.”

This of course, like the stories told by the men with which he was seated, was a lie. Quite frankly I am beginning to believe that much of the last two decades of professional baseball was a farce, not magic but instead an illusion of power hitting and heroes.

Sosa was apparently doing a lot of cheating in 2003. Keep in mind that he was also caught using a corked bat in front of the home crowd at Wrigley Field. I’m not sure which emotion I feel more. Disdain at the lack of respect Sosa showed towards baseball – a sport that made him an idol to kids here in the United States and in the Dominican Republic – or amazement that with the use of PEDs and a corked bat, Sosa still only managed 40 home runs in the 2003 season.

I can only hope that his ritual of pointing to the Lord above after every home run was his way of asking for forgiveness, not praising His name.

Sosa is currently sixth on baseball’s all-time career home runs list with 609. Arguments could be made for both sides whether his records should count, especially given that PEDs use was apparently rampant among MLB, hitters and pitchers alike. Either way Sosa and others like him have cast a long shadow over a sport and era that once held itself to a higher standard than others.

I for one am becoming numb to the news that players have cheated their sport and its fans. That may actually be the saddest news of all.

David Friedman is a long-time contributor to the Roanoke-Chowan News Herald. A Bertie High School graduate, he and his wife currently reside in Wilmington. David can be reached via e-mail at dave@gate811.net.