- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2005

The stories just keep on coming. In the last few days alone we’ve had James Toney stripped of the WBA heavyweight title after testing positive for steroids, former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski tell the Rocky Mountain News, “if I could take something that would help me perform better and it wasn’t on the [banned] list, I was going to take it,” and the “Original Whizzinator” — an apparatus that helps you beat drug tests — become a punch line from coast to coast.

Throw in a conga line of Congressional hearings, and you have the Spring of Steroids in sports. Never have so many said so much so belatedly about so important a health issue. Why, even high schools — like those in the Fort Zumwalt School District outside St. Louis — are beginning to test for performance enhancing drugs. It probably won’t be long before there’s a Mothers Against Dirigible-Sized Deltoids (MADD Jr.).

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig, after years of ignoring inflated muscles and slugging percentages, has suddenly jumped to the front of the parade. Not only does he want to crack down on steroids, he wants to eliminate amphetamines, too. Of course, if he does the latter, he can probably kiss the day-night doubleheader goodbye. I mean, how many major-leaguers could stay awake that long without the help of a “greenie” or two?

What’s comical about Selig’s hard-line stance on amphetamines is that baseball has known about their popularity longer than it has known about andro and the like. If you attended the Pittsburgh drug trials two decades ago, as I did, you heard John Milner testify about getting “red juice” from Willie Mays’ locker — and Dave Parker and Dale Berra say they were supplied with greenies by Willie “Pops” Stargell and Bill Madlock.

But the owners were too busy colluding, apparently, to notice. So players went right on popping pills — and, later, sticking needles in themselves — until MLB reached the crisis point it’s at. That’s the thing about drug use and abuse: If you ignore it, it won’t go away.

Romanowski’s disclosures come as no surprise to anyone who has observed his over-the-top behavior down through the years. He always made a big show of carrying a tackle box full of supplements around with him — vitamins, herbs, antioxidants and what not — but we always wondered What Else Was in There. And then he was implicated in the BALCO scandal, and our worst suspicions were confirmed.

The seeming ease with which he rationalized such behavior, though, should send a shiver up every parent’s spine. “It wasn’t about illegal,” he said. “I was doing things they couldn’t test me for. As soon as they found out that something could be tested for, I stopped taking it. I didn’t want that embarrassment, but I pushed that envelope ethically and morally. … The more I went over the line, I went further and further away from who I am.”

Or closer and closer to it, depending on your point of view.

Today, the Wizards’ Juan Dixon is scheduled to appear before the House Government Reform Committee. That oughta be a hoot. Dixon, after all, weighs about as much as one of Mark McGwire’s dumbbells, 164 pounds at last report. And get this: He was listed at exactly the same weight as a junior at Maryland. (I just checked one of my old media guides.)

It’s hard to imagine what the committee members want to ask Juan about. There’s no indication that significant numbers of NBAers are doing ‘roids; David Stern, meanwhile, has proposed cracking even harder on offenders, increasing suspensions to 10 games for a first offense, 25 for a second and eternal banishment (with some possibility for parole) for a third.

And understandably so. Basketball players and performance enhancing drugs are a potentially dangerous combination. What if, for instance, Yao Ming got his hands on some Human Growth Hormone? They wouldn’t just have to raise the rims, they’d have to raise the roof, too.

Why the committee didn’t subpoena Toney is anyone’s guess. Maybe Congress has finally come to the conclusion that boxing is ungovernable, not worthy of its precious time. Still, it would be interesting to hear James’ answer to a question that has been hovering over boxing for more than a decade:

Do you think Mike Tyson was a steroid creation?

(If so, perhaps John Ruiz isn’t the only fighter who should have his title refunded.)

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