- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 28, 2009

Of course the Washington Nationals have been implicated in a steroids controversy. It was the Seventh Sign, the missing piece of Nightmare on South Capitol Street.

The circle of hell is now complete.

Rod Serling must be scripting the Washington Nationals’ 2009 season from some faraway dimension. And it wasn’t enough to make the Nationals the only Washington team to walk through the wrong door in a house of horrors. He had to drag along the innocent, the Washington Capitals, as well.

The latest contribution to the “Twilight Zone” marathon are Richard and Sandra Thomas, arrested by Florida law enforcement officials and charged with 10 counts of steroid possession with intent to distribute.

Please note there are 30 major league baseball teams and 30 NHL teams. Richard Thomas could have told the Polk County Sheriff’s Department that he supplied steroids to any of those 60 sports teams.

So of course he names the Nationals and the Caps.

The Caps! What force of darkness did D.C. sports fans anger to be dealt this blow - the lone light that shone on the sports scene after a wonderful season and an exciting playoff run now covered in the goo of controversy?

Any allegations that would prove true in implicating the Caps would seem to be far more harmful than the Nationals, who two years ago had several former and current players listed in the Mitchell Report on performance-enhancing substances - former players Jose Guillen, Nook Logan, Gary Bennett, Terrmel Sledge, Mike Stanton and last’s years free agent catching bust, Paul Lo Duca. On the current Nationals roster, only reliever Ron Villone’s name appeared in the report.

No one from either team is dismissing the allegations. We’ve seen enough steroid charges these days to realize that rarely are such claims totally bogus. It’s possible, but when a flake like Jose Canseco continues to be proved right time after time, steroid allegations no longer simply can be rejected based on the source, however sleazy and murky the source may be.

Caps president Dick Patrick said the team has “no reason to believe there is any merit to the story, but the National Hockey League and the Washington Capitals take all such allegations seriously.”

Nationals president Stan Kasten said he doesn’t know anything and doesn’t particularly care to know anything unless Major League Baseball tells him there is something to know or care about.

“I don’t have any particular concerns, because as you all know, as you’ve seen in recent times baseball has the most effective and the most stringent program of testing and enforcement for performance enhancing drugs,” Kasten said. “Players run afoul of our rules. They are caught, and they are disciplined. And all that is administered by MLB. And until I hear something from MLB to be concerned about, I don’t have anything to be concerned about. And I haven’t been told anything to be concerned about by MLB at all. So for now, the story is what it is. I don’t really know any more than that.”

No particular concerns? Stan, all you have are concerns.

General manager resigns in disgrace. FBI investigates Dominican player signings. Attendance is poor. Embarrassment ensues over misspelled jerseys. Three new statues on the center-field plaza are universally panned. A small but angry fan base gets upset over your wooing of Phillies fans to Nationals Park. Daniel Cabrera (he of the $2.6 million salary) is cut loose. And still upcoming is a summer of anxiety that includes dealing with Scott Boras and his $50 million demands for Stephen Strasburg.

And did I mention a team with a 13-32 record?

Stan, you’re the godfather of concerns.

Who knows where this will lead. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Richard Thomas did not provide specific player names or indicate when the supposed sales occurred.

“Richard Thomas told sheriff’s narcotics detectives when he was asked if he had sold steroids to professional athletes, ‘Name the sport - if they played it, I sold it,’ ” Judd said in a statement. “Then Richard Thomas went further and specifically mentioned two professional sports teams from the Washington, D.C., area whose players he had sold steroids to - the D.C. Nationals baseball team and the Washington Capitals hockey team. While he stated to detectives that he sold steroids to professional athletes on those teams, he did not mention any specific players’ names.”

Judd said Polk County detectives have yet to uncover any evidence to support Richard Thomas’ claims that he distributed to athletes but said an investigation is ongoing.

Consider this, though - the Nationals and Caps are not two names somebody is going to pull out of a hat - or use simply to buy him some leverage with investigators.

I wouldn’t be surprised if, when Richard Thomas said he sold steroids to players from the Washington Nationals and Washington Capitals, sheriff’s deputies looked at each other and said, “Who?”

• Thom Loverro can be reached at tloverro@washingtontimes.com.

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