- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Alex Rodriguez has confirmed that he used performance-enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003 and that he is a liar.

This speaks to the quality of his character in the context of the low-life characters who have come before him.

He looks good in comparison to Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, both liars in the court of public opinion, the former expected to be convicted and the latter merely waiting on the feds to get around to his case.

Rodriguez is perhaps as damaging to baseball as Bonds and Clemens.

After all, it was up to Rodriguez to right the wrong of Bonds being the all-time home run hitter until news of Sports Illustrated sifting through the dirt and finding a golden nugget was revealed last weekend. It was up to Rodriguez to restore a measure of sanctity to the sport. At least that was the hope after Bonds passed Hank Aaron as the game’s all-time home run leader in 2007. So much for that hope.

Another one down and 103 names to go from the list of players who tested positive for drug use in 2003.

Baseball is destined to experience another “Back to the Future” season in 2009. It cannot get ahead of the steroids odor because of its vow of privacy. That vow did not work in Rodriguez’s favor, no more than it will work in the favor of those to follow.

With 553 career home runs, Rodriguez trails Bonds by 209. He needs 42 home runs in each of the next five seasons to surpass Bonds, a manageable pace given that is what he has averaged in his first 13 seasons.

That means five additional seasons, minimum, of commentaries that employ yet again the words “tainted” and “asterisk” and the “steroids era.” That means not a celebration as Rodriguez approaches Bonds but an ethicist’s quandary steeped in hand-wringing and controversy.

Rodriguez has come clean but only to a point. He claimed not to know what he was taking, as if he takes baseball fans as fools. And he provided no details on who introduced him to the subculture of synthetic benefits and who was his supplier.

This begins his season of torment. Rodriguez is the best player in the game and is a member of baseball’s most celebrated team in a media market not known for handling anyone in the public eye with kid gloves. This is baseball’s equivalent of the “perfect storm.”

If Rodriguez thought the media coverage of his dalliances with Madonna and the subsequent split from his former wife was over the top last summer, he is liable to consider that a tranquil period in his life compared with what is coming his way.

And if Bud Selig thought the steroids story was in the last stages of its shelf life, he just received a new expiration date: nine years, the time left on Rodriguez’s contract.

Rodriguez will hang over the 2009 season, no matter how many other compelling story lines develop. News of Rodriguez will dominate spring training and the World Baseball Classic next month.

He can decline to be more specific or embrace the no-win philosophy of Mark McGwire that he no longer wants to discuss the past. But that will not silence the chattering of the media and the drain on the game.

Baseball has been living under the performance-enhancing cloud since a reporter spotted a bottle of Androstenedione pills in McGwire’s locker in 1998, when he and Sammy Sosa captivated the nation with their assault on Roger Maris’ single-season home run record.

Eleven years later, baseball is no further removed from the deceit. If anything, the steroids fallout is just moving to another phase, to the drip, drip, drip of names.

You imagine the remaining marquee names on the list of 104 from 2003 are shifting uncomfortably in their sofas at homes while viewing the Rodriguez fallout on ESPN.

Their day is coming.

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