Americans are a forgiving people when it comes to our celebrities. You can kick the shit out of a woman then lend your name to a line of top-selling headphones while hawking Dr. Pepper, Coors Light and Chryslers on our TVs.
A rape conviction earns you a star-making cameo in the top grossing R-rated comedy of all time along with your own Broadway show and cartoon series where you solve mysteries with your talking pigeon.
All can seemingly be forgiven unless you're a baseball player linked to performance enhancing drugs. Major League Baseball is on the verge of suspending 20 of its players connected to Biogenesis, a South Florida anti-aging clinic that allegedly supplied them with PEDs. Commissioner Bud Selig is prepared to trample upon his players rights of due process in a case hinged upon the testimony of a drug dealer on the precipice of financial ruin who is looking to testify in order to avoid criminal charges.
Ironic, given that baseball was once a sport that celebrated cheating. Gaylord Perry, a man who entitled his autobiography "Me and the Spitter: An Autobiographical Confession", has a bust in Cooperstown. Meanwhile Jeff Bagwell, a ballplayer not even mentioned in the Mitchell Report or outed by noted author and Cassandra of the major leagues Jose Canseco, will have to buy a ticket if he ever wants to get inside the Hall of Fame. His only sin? A muscular physique and friendship with teammate and steroid user Ken Caminitti.
As long as you snort your drugs up your nose, baseball will give you a second chance . . . or even a seventh if you're former southpaw Steve Howe. But steroids? Not a chance. Barry Bonds found himself blackballed from the league after hitting 28 homers and leading the majors in On-Base Percentage in his final season. Bonds offered to play for the league minimum and donate his salary to buy tickets to games for underprivileged children but still found no takers. And this in a league where Carlos Pena flirts with the Mendoza Line as shamelessly as Tiger Woods does with pancake house waitresses, yet Pena still lands himself a ten million dollar gig every spring.
Roger Clemens spent five years and countless millions to clear his good name but even after being acquitted on all counts of lying to Congress about his steroid use, sportswriters remain convinced he used PEDs. While our baseball scribes sanctimoniously proclaim they would go to the ends of the Earth to clear their own names of steroid accusations, only 37% gave their Hall of Fame Votes to a man who did just that.
The current demonization of HGH and steroids will appear as silly to future generations as the myth of the poisonous tomato seems to us today. Our perception of their dangers is colored by twenty-two year old Lyle Alzado articles in Sports Illustrated. But take a look at this photo of 66 year-old HGH advocate Sylvester Stallone. At an age when his peers are ready for the early bird special at Denny's, the actor is more muscular today than he was 36 years ago in the original "Rocky".
My advice to baseball's alleged steroid users? Take up a new sport. Football player Shawne Merriman finished third in the 2006 NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting and earned a trip to the Pro Bowl during the same season in which he was banned four games for testing positive for PEDs. Meanwhile, Melky Cabrera batted .346 last year, received a 50 game suspension and did not earn even a single MVP vote. While Merriman's Chargers team welcomed him back for their 2006 playoff campaign, the San Francisco Giants left their leading hitter off their post-season roster, even though he was eligible to play for them in both the NLCS and World Series.
Just stay off the bike. They frown upon that kind of thing in France, too.