- The Washington Times - Monday, February 9, 2009

Last year at this time, baseball was reeling in the wake of the Mitchell Report on the use of performance-enhancing substances and Roger Clemens’ embarrassing appearance before a congressional committee.

This year, baseball has its all-time home run leader facing trial next month in federal court on charges of lying to a grand jury about steroid use and now the revelation that its biggest star tested positive for steroids six years ago.

So can we stop with the ridiculous notion that somehow this is all going to pass? Can we please stop insulting everyone’s intelligence that somehow time will make all of this look better?

Can the ostriches get their heads out of the ground long enough to conclude that no information is going to surface to make anyone look better in the steroid controversy?

SI.com reported that Alex Rodriguez’s name appears on a list of 104 players who tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in a 2003 survey. He reportedly tested positive for Primobolan and testosterone.

That makes a twofer for the Guitar Hero World Tour commercial of last year, which featured four star athletes playing the guitar in a spoof of the “Old Time Rock & Roll” scene in “Risky Business.” Two of those athletes were Michael Phelps and Rodriguez.

This steroid news should come as a surprise to no one. Last year during spring training, Rodriguez told reporters that the year before he had been tested nine or 10 times. He used that to make the case that baseball had made improvements in its drug testing policies.

The problem was that no one is tested that many times randomly. You have to have had a positive drug test show up sometime in the past and be targeted in order to have that many tests.

He later backtracked from that statement, claiming he was exaggerating to make a point. But he made a point, all right. He was a cheating suspect. Now comes the evidence to back up the suspicions.

There is all sorts of collateral damage from this news. The players union is facing a crisis because these tests were supposed to be anonymous. There were no penalties for those positive tests. They were simply supposed to be a survey to figure out whether stricter testing was needed.

Once the results were in, though, union officials could have destroyed the tests to make sure they didn’t come back to haunt their members. Instead, they sat there until federal investigators in the BALCO probe found out there was a list of players who tested positive and grabbed it.

If other names on that list surface, there will be considerable anger aimed at the union by its membership.

I always thought the steroid controversy would be the biggest crisis the union would face, one that could tear it apart. I figured, with each revelation, union brothers would turn on each other.

One motivation would be outrage if they didn’t use and were cheated out of money as a result. If someone who tested positive for steroids won an MVP like Rodriguez did in 2003, the runners-up likely lost out on some contract bonuses.

The other motivation would be to save themselves, which we have seen happen when Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch were dragged up to Capitol Hill to testify in the steroid probe following the Mitchell Report. There will be others who will turn on their union brothers - some for money and some who will be forced to, as Jason Giambi and others will at Barry Bonds’ federal trial next month.

But let’s not get sidetracked by the union’s failings. The fault lies with Rodriguez, who made the decision to use steroids and cheat every player he passed on baseball’s all-time lists who did not use.

Many of those players are in the Hall of Fame and are angry about this generation of players who cheated to diminish their accomplishments. That’s why the steroids controversy won’t fade into the history books for quite some time, perhaps until a generation has come and gone.

Alex Rodriguez is 33 and conceivably could play another seven years. Add five years of retirement until he becomes eligible to be on the Hall of Fame ballot. Then add 15 more years he may stay on the ballot as the debate rages every year, as if does now for Mark McGwire, over whether he should be voted in.

That’s 27 years - nearly a generation from now.

And you can be sure that with each passing year, there will be more damaging information learned about the cheaters whose names already have been revealed, and more names will surface. There always will be an estranged brother or former lover or low-paid clubhouse attendant who will have a reason to come forward - especially once the faucet of information is opened, as it has now been with Rodriguez.

So the issue facing Alex Rodriguez is not what damage this SI.com report does to him and his legacy. That damage is done.

The issue is, what’s next?

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