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Ted Green: Steroids in baseball are more than just a problem

August 4, 2009 |  8:24 pm

Manny2 Turned on the radio and heard a host say it's time for everyone on the List of 104 to "clear their consciences and purge their guilt."

Picked up the paper and read about the "stain" Manny Ramirez could bring to the Dodgers.

If Manny "stains" the Dodgers, then all of baseball is now discolored beyond recognition.

Memo to the moralizers: Stop the soap-box sanctimoniousness. Save your outrage.

The steroid "problem" in baseball isn't a problem. It's a culture, a way of life. It's how they roll.

The issue runs oceans deeper than Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. A-Rod is in the rearview mirror. It's way beyond Manny and Big Papi. And it far transcends names on some secret list from six years ago that is now being slowly leaked to the press like Chinese water torture.

From the fair number of people I know in and around the game who will talk but not be identified by name, the best guess is that more than 80% of all big leaguers, recent past and present, have used and, in many cases, are still using performance-enhancing drugs.

Eighty percent is a big number, one that is so embarrassing, the commissioner's office won't even entertain it. But is there any reason left to think otherwise? If so, I'd love to hear it. If the number of PED'ers is only 20%, as the game's officials and apologists claim, making 80% blameless, then why aren't so many more players coming forward, with vigorous aggressiveness, to say, to scream, to shout from the hilltops: Test me all you want, test me 10,000 times. I swear by everything dear to my heart, I'm clean!

Know why you're not hearing that? Let me put this in capital letters:

BECAUSE MOST OF THEM ARE NOT CLEAN.

HGH, the Human Growth Hormone, has given big leaguers a free ride, a hall pass, to continue drugging and cheating as they please and with impunity.

There is no standard test for HGH, and those who assiduously protect all the cheaters won't allow blood testing.

So to single out any one or two individuals in this so-called controversy, to rip them in the papers or call them out on radio and TV, to feign outrage or surprise or disgust or disillusionment, is now a disingenuous exercise in outdatedness. It's a tired media act, passe now, even boring.

The steroid genie is out of the bottle and can never be put back in again until mandatory blood-testing is ordered by the commissioner, legally challenged by the players' union and finally mandated by a court.

Until that time, the far more interesting question to me isn't one of names or lists or confessions, much as these "revelations" make news and give the radio blabbers something to blab about. It isn't even about the record book, anymore, which is now screwed up beyond recognition.

For me, the real compelling question has to do with real life, namely: What will the long-term health consequences be for the hundreds of players who put those nasty drugs in their bodies?

The current science is so scant, the research so limited, because the phenomenon of cycling on and off PED's for extended periods is so relatively brand new.

You can't follow a user's medical history for 25 years because no one's been on the stuff that long.

In other words, today's major leaguers and those who retired just recently are part of the test group. This is their Brave New World.

They're baseball's scientific guinea pigs. But simple common sense tells you the users are playing a dangerous game with the potential for fatal consequences.

See: Lyle Alzado. Before he died, the Raiders' star attributed his ultimately lethal brain tumor to steroids.

It goes without saying, no one likes to think about the possibility of being diagnosed with cancer in midlife. But you had better believe the players with any brains think about it more than they would admit to anyone other than their wives or parents.

Lyle Alzado sure did. Then it was too late.

So that's where the Steroid Era has taken us today, past the headlines and beyond the editorials.

It's not a revelation anymore. Unless I miss my guess, it's a cold, hard, ugly, frightening future.

-- Ted Green

Green formerly covered sports for the L.A. Times. He is currently Senior Sports Producer for KTLA Prime News.

Photo: Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez. Credit: Alex Gallardo / Los Angeles Times

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