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Philip Hersh:Baseball back in the Olympics after A-Rod? What a laugh!

February 10, 2009 | 11:15 am

Alex Rodriguez Ha ha.

Ha ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha ... (excuse me while I catch my breath) ... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

What's so funny?

I'm just thinking what it will be like when the various International Olympic Committee entities involved in evaluating the Summer Games sports program begin discussing baseball's bid for reinstatement.

(To begin, let me reiterate something I have said many times when writing about efforts to reduce the size of the Summer Games: Sports in which an Olympic gold medal is not the ultimate prize have no claim on inclusion in the Summer Olympics. So I would eliminate men's soccer, baseball and tennis -- men and women. I spare men's basketball only because its presence means so much to TV networks worldwide, and the IOC should do nothing to endanger future TV revenues so badly needed by Olympic organizing committees and international sports federations.)

Baseball's chances to get back into the Games could end as early as March, when the IOC program commission takes up the issue. Or in June, when the IOC executive board discusses which -- if any -- new sports the IOC membership should consider adding at the October meeting when it also picks the 2016 Summer Games host.

There are openings for two sports but no obligation to fill them. Among the contenders: baseball, softball, rugby sevens, squash, golf, karate and roller sports.

And why is baseball's bid a laughingstock?

Alex Rodriguez.

He exemplifies the ongoing hear-no-, see-no-, speak-no-evil stance of the sport's leadership, both the players union and management, where doping is concerned. That includes repeated stories about players being tipped off that a random, unannounced test was imminent and about teams making it hard for testers to gain access to players.

The IOC's efforts to curb doping are very imperfect, especially in a world where chemists can devise undetectable performance-enhancing drugs with apparently minimal effort. But at least Olympic sports try to do the best they can.

Major League Baseball's antidoping efforts still are half-hearted, as evidenced by the sport's failure to institute blood testing. Yet MLB has been advocating, sort of, for the sport to get back in the Olympics.

There is one place where Olympic sports and MLB apparently sadly are on the same doping page: failure to abide by confidentiality rules in anti-doping protocols.

The leaked information about Rodriguez may not be MLB's fault or the fault of the players' union because results of the "confidential, nonpunitive'' testing the sport did before creating an antidoping program undoubtedly have been seen by dozens of people since federal investigators seized them in the BALCO probe.

But everyone in baseball said the sport's doping problems were inconsequential, even after knowing (according to Sports Illustrated) that 104 players were found positive in those 2003 tests of those on 40-man rosters. They had to know Rodriguez and other big stars were among them.

And what is worse?  Breaching confidentiality or lying, as Rodriguez did when he told Katie Couric he had never taken performance-enhancing drugs and as baseball essentially did when it refused to hear alarm bells even after it was revealed that slugger Mark McGwire was taking a PED (that was not banned at the time).

Baseball has lived a lie for more than two decades, and there is no reason to believe its attitude has really changed since punitive testing began in 2004. Sure, it catches lots of minor league players, especially poor Latin American kids who can't afford drugs for which MLB doesn't tested (human growth hormone) or undetectable drugs. And there is no consistent testing for the blood booster EPO in the majors (other than what it calls "spot checking ... during one season of testing'' and what the World Anti-Doping Agency does at the World Baseball Classic) even though EPO has been proved to help athletes in explosive sports as well as endurance sports.

The Olympics don't need baseball because less than a dozen countries care about the game.

Baseball doesn't need the Olympics enough to create a schedule break that would allow major leaguers to compete or a drug-testing program that conforms to international standards.

IOC members would have to be dopes (and there are some who fit that description) to let baseball back in.

Then the joke would be on the Olympics.

-- Philip Hersh

Photo: Alex Rodriguez during Monday's interview with Peter Gammons. Credit: ESPN

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