Thursday, May 05, 2005

Up in Smoke

Major league baseball had its day in congress. When Mark McGwire was asked directly if he had used steroids, his reply was, “I’m not here to talk about the past.” That statement left little doubt in anyone’s minds that the big league All Star was juiced when he broke the homerun record in 1998. As McGwire’s friends laughed off the question with him, it left us wondering, who else is on the juice? Was Sammy Sosa when he was racing Big Mac to the homerun record? What about Barry Bonds when he broke McGwire’s record three years later. Congress was so uptight and upset that not only did they demand a change in the MLB drug policy they demanded to speak with representatives from the NBA, NFL, and NHL about their policies as well.

My question is why did it take steroids to get congress involved with drugs and professional sports? For years professional athletes have struggled with drug and alcohol problems. In 1998 St. Louis Rams defensive end Leonard Little killed a St. Louis woman in an accident that resulted from him driving drunk. What was his punishment? He was suspended for the first half of the 99 season. Last spring Little was charged again with DUI. Every year names of NFL athletes scroll across the headlines of our local players because of problems with drugs and alcohol. Names we know names like Steve McNair, Jamal Lewis and Warren Sapp.

This time last year the Miami Dolphins were putting their hopes of winning the AFC East on the legs of star running back Ricky Williams. A few months later Williams bolted from the NFL, in order to pursue a “higher education.” Williams later stated that he was tired of dealing with the NFL drug testing policies. It was later that we found out that Williams had tested positive for marijuana three times. The problem is that Williams wouldn’t have been suspended from playing until after the third failed test.

Does anyone remember Darryl Strawberry? Here was a guy with tons of talent, but he struggled with drugs throughout his career. Major league baseball gave him every chance in the world to play, but did they really give him every chance to overcome his addiction?

It wasn’t until 1998 that the NBA put Marijuana in their drug policy as a banned substance. Even with that players are only tested in the pre-season. Veterans are not allowed to be tested during the regular season, only rookies. “Hey rookie, give me that joint. You know you can’t be smoking that stuff. It’s only for us veterans.” It’s amazing to think that Cheech and Chong would be eligible to play in the NBA if they could get through their rookie season.

If congress wants to get serious about drugs and sports, then they need to look first to the NBA for their lax policies on marijuana. Then find who is supplying Rickey Williams with his dope. Find a way to help these young men cope with alcohol abuse and implement stricter punishments when they break the law.

Let’s face it, steroids have never caused a person to get behind the wheel of an automobile, with limited motor skills, and drive amazingly fast. My question for congress is this. Are you more interested in saving home run records or saving lives? If you are going to involve your self in major league sports then make sure you do it in a way where it really matters. If not, you’re just blowing smoke.