- The Washington Times - Monday, August 10, 2009

David Ortiz said what the performance-enhancing cheats usually say, which is he took vitamins and over-the-counter supplements and that the combination possibly triggered a positive test result in 2003.

That denial is so old now that it is starting to sprout gray whiskers.

If it is not Rafael Palmeiro saying he received what he believed were vitamin B-12 injections, it is Barry Bonds sticking to his flaxseed-oil defense.

Now it is Ortiz mining similar material. Otherwise, he has no idea what could have prompted the incriminating test result, because he never has taken steroids. In fact, he has been a vocal opponent of them.

The baseball press is inclined to give Ortiz the benefit of the doubt. It wants to believe in him because of his good-guy persona. But even good guys have flaws. Even good guys could see the expanding bulk of their peers and tape-measure home runs and decide to join the fun.

Would that then make them bad guys? That is the thing with baseball’s steroids scandal. It is not always black or white. It is not as if those who used steroids are all bad and those who stayed away from them are all good.

One notorious bad guy, Jose Canseco, has been out in front of the scandal. He has been baseball’s truth serum.

Of course, it could be that Ortiz is telling the truth, so help him God.

It also could be that he is no different from all the rest, except he always has a smile on his face and a kind word for those around him and accepts the obligations that come with being a celebrated ballplayer, whether it is dealing with the media or fans.

Unlike Bonds or Roger Clemens, polarizing figures both with some bully in them, Ortiz is being given a latitude that his story does not necessarily deserve.

He went to a nutrition store and purchased this or that, and the next thing he knew, he was on the infamous list of 2003.

Michael Weiner, designated to become the next union boss, said Ortiz was eager to discuss this matter sooner but was advised to proceed with caution.

But it is not as if Ortiz broke any new ground during his news conference. He could have said a week ago what he said this past weekend at Yankee Stadium. Blame it on vitamins and over-the-counter supplements and be done with it.

Weiner could not explain what landed Ortiz on the list, since he did not know which substances the player ingested. All Weiner could say was that 13 of the 96 urine samples that produced a positive test result are in dispute.

That provided Ortiz with a certain plausible deniability but no absolution.

Weiner dismissed the clamor to release all the names on the list because of the legal ramifications, although he understands the motivation behind it.

He understands how baseball wants to get out from under the steroid fallout one of these years, and that is just not going to happen as long as the list is deemed confidential.

The so-called confidentiality of the list has not spared Alex Rodriguez, Sammy Sosa, Manny Ramirez and Ortiz, and it will not spare those to come.

All Ortiz is left to do is play to those who find him lovable.

That is his principal weapon because his story stinks. It stinks like all the rest.

He is a professional athlete who depends on his body, and yet, recklessly, he was taking foreign substances that he knew nothing about. He did no research on them. He posed no questions to trainers and nutritional experts.

He just stopped in a store one day, grabbed some supplements off the shelf and followed the instructions on the label, even though he knew the risk, going back to Mark McGwire’s andro-pill controversy in 1998.

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