Tag Archives: PEDs

Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

Conventional wisdom would say that this should be a column about the massive hammer that fell down Monday in Major League Baseball regarding the 12 players who were suspended for performance enhancing drug (PED) use.

After months of buildup, and names being leaked to the various media outlets, it finally became clear Monday who the accused were and what the penalties would be for their transgressions against baseball. Under the collective bargaining agreement the players were given penalties ranging from 50 game suspensions all the way to the granddaddy of all suspensions a 211 game one.

While the suspensions were a long time coming, and I agree that the game of baseball needs to be as free of cheaters as possible, the thought of giving the cheaters any more press really does not appeal to me.

One could go so far as to say that I have lost the passion for the PED story.

And as one of the players caught with their hand in the banned substance cookie jar plays through his appeals process it is clear that the start of at least one of current suspensions will drag out for the remainder of the season meaning that the PED story will not go away any time this season.

So while my passion for the PED story has left me, there was another story in the news from Monday involving an athlete getting injured while following his passion that caught my attention.

Tony "Smoke" Stewart is a three-time NASCAR Champion and ambassador for all forms of racing. But as owner of a million dollar racing empire some mat question why he still races on dirt and risks injury or worse.  Photo R. Anderson

Tony “Smoke” Stewart is a three-time NASCAR Champion and ambassador for all forms of racing. But as owner of a million dollar racing empire some might question why he still races on dirt and risks injury or worse.
Photo R. Anderson

I am of course talking about three-time NASCAR Champion Tony “Smoke” Stewart.

Stewart broke the tibia and fibula of his right leg in a sprint car crash in Iowa Monday night and will need a second surgery on his right leg in the coming days.

The injury will force Stewart out of his NASCAR ride for the first time since he joined the Cup Series in 1999. How long he stays out of the car remains to be seen.

I have been a Smoke fan pretty much ever since he entered the Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.

While he has certainly had a bumpy relationship with the media at times, I enjoy his passion for the sport and the fact that he speaks his mind and seems to genuinely care for those around him.

Those are the same traits that I find in Kyle Busch who is a former teammate of Smoke and another driver that I follow.

I certainly wish Smoke a speedy recovery from his recent injury since I think the garage area and racing in general is certainly better off with him there than not.

As is the case any time an athlete is injured away from their main sport, there are those who say that athletes should not compete in areas other than their main job because of freak injuries just like this.

Tony Stewart broke is leg in two places Monday night putting the rest of his current season in jeopardy.  Photo R. Anderson

Tony Stewart broke is leg in two places Monday night putting the rest of his current season in jeopardy.
Photo R. Anderson

I don’t really share that particular point of view. Athletes by their nature, especially the ones who make it to the highest levels of sport, are highly competitive people.

That competitive fire cannot be turned off and only show up on game time or in Stewart’s case whenever the green flag drops.

And yes that is the same competitive fire that causes some athletes, such as the suspended PED using ballplayers whose names shall not be named here, to break the rules to gain any advantage that they can in their quest to be the best.

The competitiveness needs to be fed and for Stewart and many other drivers that fuel comes through racing on dirt tracks like the one he was injured on.  Race the same course hundreds of times and there are likely to be no injuries but roll the dice, or the car enough times, and injuries will occur.

That does not mean that people should never take chances or feed the passion and the competitive fire that burns within.

A few years back Stewart’s teammate at the time, Denny Hamlin, blew out his knee playing basketball. While Hamlin’s injury occurred on a court and not a track it still meant that he missed time from is “day job.”

The competitive spirit that drives Tony Stewart to risk his career on the race track is described in his biography. Stewart, like many drivers on the circuit simply put were born to race. Or has Ricky Bobby would say, "They wanna go fast." Photo R. Anderson

The competitive spirit that drives Tony Stewart to risk his career on the race track is described in his autobiography. Stewart, like many drivers on the circuit simply put were born to race. Or as Ricky Bobby would say, “I wanna go fast.”
Photo R. Anderson

The world of sports is full of stories of athletes missing time due to freak injuries so saying that NASCAR drivers cannot race in other non NASCAR sanctioned races, as some will likely suggest, is clearly not the answer since injuries can happen anywhere.

The fact is people are injured all of the time in day to day living so risks are not limited just to the track and other “high risk” scenarios.

I could just as easily turn an ankle by tripping over something on the way to the fridge to get some iced tea.

Granted that is an extreme example, but I would much rather be the type that has a cool story to share about any potential injury incurred than being the type to say, “I tripped over my cat and sprained my back.”

I have little doubt that once the leg is healed Smoke will go right back to racing on dirt tracks across the country since it is in his nature to do so and it fuels his passion for racing.

We should all be so lucky to find things to be passionate about in our daily non dirt track racing lives.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to attempt an injury free walk to the fridge to get some iced tea, wish me luck.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Braun First Player to Face New Era of MLB Punishment

The other day it was announced that Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers agreed to a suspension that will last until the start of spring training next year.

By most accounts the suspension will be for 65 games since it is unlikely that the Brewers will make the postseason this year. Since he is suspended without pay it will cost him around $3.5 million in salary.

The suspension comes as a result of Braun being linked to the use of banned performance enhancing drugs, or PEDs and other suspension for several other players implicated in the probe  of a South Florida clinic are expected to follow.

Braun was first facing a suspension of 50 games in 2011 when he failed a random drug test. He was able to get the suspension overturned on a technicality by blaming the way the sample was handled after it left his body so to speak and before it reached the testing center.

A few stern denials and a rooftop proclamation of his innocence and the former National League MVP was welcomed back with open arms and the man responsible for delivering the sample to the testing facility was considered public enemy number one in Milwaukee and even received death threats.

The fans embraced Braun again following his successful appeal of the suspension and none other than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers staked a year’s salary on the fact that Braun was innocent of the charges against him.

Now it appears that Braun was guilty in 2011 and 2013 and the world waits to see if Aaron Rogers will give up a year’s salary to the fan on twitter that he made the wager with.

While the fate of Ryan Braun has been settled, at least for the remainder of this season, the jury is still out on what the rest of the implicated players will face. There are even rumblings that perhaps Alex Rodriguez who has been found guilty of steroid use time and time again will actually face a lifetime ban of some sort as a result of this latest breaking of the rules.

The recent round of suspensions, while much more wide in its scope, is also interesting in that many of the players being implicated do not have the “steroid” physique of some of the previous tainted players Like Barry Bonds, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. In each of the previous cases it was fairly easy to look at the player and assume that they were on something since they were so much larger than the rest of the team and their offensive numbers were through the roof.

In the more recent cases the implicated players do not look that much different than the rest of the team making it less obvious that they were using banned substances. This could be the result of players using less of a substance or could also be the chemist merely staying one step ahead of detection and getting production gains without massive muscle gain.

When the Brewers and Astros were both members of the National League Central Division I had many opportunities to see Ryan Braun play. In all of those games never once did I think he was a steroid user.

With Braun having so many games each year against the Astros and the Pirates, with neither one really knocking the cover off of the ball, it was easy to think that Braun’s numbers were simply based on talent and the fact that a quarter of his opponents had losing records.

Of course now with his apology and veiled admission of guilt it has become obvious that Braun’s numbers, while still aided by a weak schedule, were also helped by PEDs.

Players are always looking for an edge that makes them better than their opponents. Most players stay within the rules and merely work harder at their craft to be the best they can be.

Unfortunately there is a small set of players that abuse the system and can also make clean players look dirty by association since the current assumptions seem to be that any player having more success than the rest must be using something illegal to gain that mush of an advantage.

Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles is on pace to hit over 60 home runs this season. And despite never showing up on any lists of steroid users there is a small set of people convinced that the pop in his bat has to be the result of some sort of PED.  Davis denies the allegations of PED use and I tend to believe him.

Of course there were those who believed Ryan Braun as well so I guess one never really knows which players are dirty or clean but I don’t get the PED abuser feel from Davis and think that there are times when a player is simply in the zone and hits more home runs than anyone else. And from his days in the Rangers farm system Davis was always projected to be a power hitter so the recent production is not that odd when that is taken into account.

So baseball will look to make a statement with the latest suspensions and hope to restore some credibility back to the game while the chemists of the world will continue to work on making undetectable drugs that boost performance for their clients.

It is a cat and mouse game and the stakes are too high for both sides to stop now. Sometimes the Commissioner’s office wins in detecting the abuse, and sometimes the players win in keeping the abuse a secret.  The only constant loser in all of this is the fans who lose a little trust in the sanctity of the game with use passing admission of guilt.

Of course there are those who say that there were always performance enhancers of one kind or another in the game. And if you think about it Gatorade, Energy drinks and caffeine can be considered performance enhancers as well when used to excess.

So there will probably never be a way to totally clean up the game but I applaud Major League Baseball for trying and showing that no player is above the law not even a former League MVP.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for me to enhance my performance with some more Dr. Pepper.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson