Saturday, January 5, 2008

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

In today's world, everyone loves to dig skeletons out of the closets of the rich and famous, take quotes out of context, and tear others down. But as we find ourselves on the back end of the Mitchell Report, the front end of the long, drawn-out race for the White House, and with the Congressional testimony of Petitte, Michell, The Rocket and others already marked down on the calendar, people forget one frequently-maligned public official who really did speak out against steroids and the like even before Mark McGwire's tragic, deer-in-the-headlights, "I'm not here to talk about the past" moment: President George W. Bush. As a former owner and managing partner of the Texas Rangers during the early '90's, it is certainly possible that he knew, like some GM's and owners did, about the increase in performance-enhancing drugs. However, it is impossible to judge him harshly for that, considering the fact that many owners and GM's did not know about what was happening in the locker rooms and trainer's offices, that several of the substances in question were not illegal at the time, and there may have been a lack of knowledge about the harmful consequences of using. What I do know is this: In January 'o4, almost four years before the Mitchell Report's publication, before anyone outside of Cali knew what BALCO was, and before stars like Floyd Landis, Shaun Merriman, and ummm, Paul Byrd? had to deal with doping accusations, President Bush made a public denouncement of steroids and a plea for sports to keep themselves clean. I believe his exact words were:

"To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football, and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message -- that there are shortcuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches, and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough, and to get rid of steroids now."

So for all the criticism leveled at the President, some of which he certainly deserves, give him some props for taking a strong, early stance on this subject. It is only too bad that the owners, union reps, coaches, and players were probably too busy counting their money or making it rain in strip clubs to take this message to heart. Maybe a little one-on-one time with George Bush (oh, and a few especially rough Secret Service men) might make Donald Fehr recognize the need to listen.

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