Thursday, June 18, 2009

Canseco, Sosa and the Olympics, Sosa and the Olympics

By Evan Weiner

June 18, 2009

10:30 PM EDT

(New York, N. Y.) -- Jose Canseco is hopping mad and is ready to unleash a class action suit against anyone that seems to be connected with Major League Baseball, the owners and the players and anything that isn't nailed down. Canseco's feels he has been blackballed for writing a book about steroids use in baseball and that has cost him a chance at the Hall of Fame and a job in baseball. While Canseco was looking to get even with someone even though he admittedly used banned substances, the New York Times was publishing a report that was leaked by somebody that Sammy Sosa failed a performance enhancement drug test in 2003. The drug test administered to Sosa was supposed to be confidential and the result was not supposed to be released to the public. Canseco's suit and the Sosa revelation came as the International Olympic Committee reviewing the various cities that are ready to lose billions of dollars in a bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Canseco, Sosa and the IOC are joined at the hip.

Canseco's tome on banned performance enhancing drug use in baseball brought to light steroid usage in baseball and it is because of alleged usage of banned performance enhancement drugs by baseball players, according to some in the know, that caused the International Olympic Committee to drop baseball from the quadrennial sports event known as the Olympics.

Canseco's book also spurred Congress to get off its collective duffs for one of the great shows of all time, the Major League Baseball comes clean hearing before a House committee on St. Patrick's Day 2005, where a parade of players including Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro hemmed and hawed about whether they used banned performance enhancing drugs before the Committee on Government Reform.

Congress, which among other things had two wars going at the time, took both the baseball owners and the players to the woodshed and shamed the two sides into toughening up their collective bargaining agreement in terms of drug testing but the St. Patrick's Day celebration of the great American game left one question that no one wants to answer.

If steroid usage in the United States is illegal, why weren't the players caught violating the collective bargaining agreement by testing positive for a banned substance looked upon as cheaters and not lawbreakers?

This is an important part of the entire banned performance enhancing drug usage problem that allegedly exists in sports and it gets back to whether athletes get special treatment. The International Olympic Committee's whole argument that baseball's drug policies aren't tough enough is laughable when you consider the IOC President Jacques Rogge was begging Italian law enforcement personnel to let the IOC police the Turin Olympic Village during the 2006 Winter Olympics because the athletes who might be caught with banned enhancers were really cheating and it was not a criminal offense.

What is even more troubling is how one law enforcement official in Harris County, Texas views athletes taking banned substances. "I’d like to see any players who have broken the rules face up to it publicly and do everything within their powers of persuasion to dissuade young people from using these drugs as opposed to sending them to prison. I think the truth has great powers for them. It’s got to be awful for them to know that they cheated and then perhaps committed perjury," said Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos to a reporter who did a story on her in the Houston Chronicle newspaper about two weeks ago.

The shame of being named a cheater triumphs breaking the law.

Some members of Congress are thinking about reviewing Sosa's testimony in light of the New York Times report. There is one player who got caught up in the Congressional hearings who pled guilty to lying to Congress. Houston's Miguel Tejada, who plays in Lykos' Harris County, didn't fess up to lawmakers about his anabolic steroids usage. Tejada could have faced a year in jail and deportation on February 11, 2009 when he appeared in court. Instead he got what amounted to a slap on the wrist as on March 26, he received probation.

So much for the seriousness of lying to Congress or breaking the law. Tejada did have an out though, he is from the Dominican Republic and you can buy steroids at any local pharmacy in the country as there is no law against its usage.

Canseco's class action suit contends that he isn't a Hall of Fame candidate because he is blackballed and McGwire, in Jose's opinion, has been blackballed too. Canseco claims he and others are missing income opportunities because they are not in the Hall of Fame. That one Canseco should take up with the Baseball Hall of Fame, the body that empowers baseball writers with 10 years of more experience on the beat to vote on which players belong in the baseball shrine. Why writers who are allegedly journalists should vote on an honor is a question that newspapers never really faced until recently when some papers publishers or editors found it unconscionable that writers voted on the very subjects that they were supposed to be covering. Former Baseball Hall of Fame President Dale Petroskey wasn't too bothered with newspapers who barred writers from voting and once boasted that more writers voted for Hall of Famers after the edict came down from the papers.

Major League Baseball and baseball writers depend on one another and baseball writers do the right thing and promote the game as if it is part of their job.

The same writers who had an idea that players were juiced in the 1990s but gleefully went along the great home run race of 1998 between McGwire and Sosa which allegedly restored interest in the game after the 1994-95 players strike because it was in both the game and the writers best interest to prop baseball back to pre-1994 interest levels.

It did lead to some writers actually speculating that players were taking something and to a juvenile confrontation between then Sports Illustrated writer Rick Reilly and Sosa in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse where Reilly offered to take Sosa to some Chicago lab to get drug tested. Reilly apparently forgot that even baseball players have a right to privacy.

The more serious American sportscaster Bob Costas speculated that some players were juiced in various discussions as did the Washington Post’s Tom Boswell.

Reilly, who for some unknown reason is considered a must read writer, never got a response from Sosa. If Reilly had the goods on Sosa he should have done some investigative reporting and backed it up but he decided to showboat in a clubhouse. Reilly was not a serious journalist that day although it is questionable if Reilly has ever been in the same category of the Pulitzer Prize winner Dave Anderson or of Red Smith or Dick Schaap. Anderson would never have pulled a stunt like Reilly did with Sosa.

Sosa was a star and this is where the IOC comes in. The IOC could never get McGwire, Sosa or others to play in the Olympics because Major League Baseball was never going to suspend its season for two weeks for what essentially was a meaningless tourney for big leaguers. The IOC wants big names and used the lack of Olympic style drug testing as an excuse to throw baseball out of the games. Rogge wants big names; baseball isn't going to give him that. That is why baseball is not in the Olympics and the drug testing issue is the ruse.

The IOC reviewed baseball's application to get back into the Games earlier this week and while the New York Times Sosa story didn't help the cause, the IOC still wants stars not top rated minor leaguers even though that is what they get from FIFA for the football (soccer) tournament. But even the IOC delegates know it would not be wise to pick a fight with FIFA because there is no way they could win. The FIFA World Cup trumps the Olympics.

The IOC thinks it is a nation not a sports organization and why countries buy into the IOC is ludicrous and defies any reasonable explanation. The IOC has left behind billions of dollars of debt in host cities that wanted the two week athletic event and does so without any remorse. In fact, the way the IOC looks at it, it is an honor to host the Olympics although if you ask everyday people in Montreal, Sydney or Athens that might look at it a bit differently as the bill to host the Olympics takes generations to pay off.

The IOC went over the bids for the 2016 Summer Games from Chicago, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo this week in Copenhagen. On October 2, the IOC will announce which city gained the right to lose billions hosting the Games. London is finding out right now just how much it really costs to host the Games and the jubilation of winning the bid for the 2012 Olympic Games back in 2005 has faded as the real cost of the holding the Olympics is beginning to hit homes.

The London Games will be missing baseball and softball. For whatever reason softball was cut from the Summer Olympics program. The American women also did well in the Games, could it be that the women are being punished because Major League Baseball didn't play ball with Rogge? Only the delegates know for sure, but given the IOC's history it would not be a surprise if that was true.

Sports is a business, Canseco thinks he is being shut out, Sosa was outed and the IOC and others think athletes using banned performance enhancer drugs is merely cheating, not unlawful. Just another week in the toy store of life, sports.

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