Somebody said a long time ago that cheaters never win. Somebody. Was. Wrong.
They do win. They cheat. They lie. And we, the cheated, never win. We are left, instead, to double-clutch, to wonder whether what we see on the diamond, on the field, on the court, on the track is worth believing, whether we should greet athletic achievement with celebration or with suspicion.
Those cheaters make their bodies bigger, stronger, faster, better through the wonders of chemistry. They hit home runs. They make great plays. They sack the quarterback. They dunk a basketball. They hear the cheers. They make trunks full of Ben Franklins, enough to make the case for their dirty little profitable indiscretions. And they make one other thing - fools out of all of us.
Hello. Is there an echo in here?
Yeah, we've heard this before, been down this road a hundred times already. Some of us are frustrated, some are numb. It's not about the bike, right? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
Three conclusions can be drawn out of ESPN's report that Major League Baseball seeks to suspend two or three dozen players, maybe more - including Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez on account of their connection to Tony Bosch and Biogenesis, his Miami wellness clinic, an alleged wellspring of performance-enhancing drugs for all kinds of pro athletes.
First, baseball is losing its battle against PEDs. Second, sports is losing its war on drugs. Third, cheaters will cheat, even if some of them get caught along the way.
What, then, are we to do … sniff in apathy or condemn and get angry, again?
In the middle of baseball's initial drug mess after the World Series was canceled, back when MLB seemed clueless or without motivation to do anything about players using steroids and HGH and whatever else, back when it high-fived artificially aided homerun totals and homerun chases while turning a blind eye toward the backroom injections that made them possible, a notion surfaced that once baseball got serious about laying down the law, the drug culture would dry up and blow away.
Using rages on.
MLB is pursuing those players on Bosch's list now, including some big stars, not because they failed drug tests, rather because Bosch is singing like a lovebird. He's cooperating with MLB investigators, who have dogged him for months, selling out his former clients because he's looking out for himself.
In other words, baseball, in this case, got nasty and lucky.
How many other PED users are there … in baseball, football, basketball and, who knows, badminton?
I talked to a university professor, an expert in performance-enhancing drugs, who said more people are in the pool than we think. He's not surprised at the numbers of athletes using, nor is he surprised that there's technology available for athletes to effectively mask their usage. He's surprised when athletes actually test positive. He said when that happens, the athletes have somehow messed up in the proper hiding of it.
In the Biogenesis case, the evidence is found in the testimony of a central character with a dubious rep, a man who ran the clinic, who dispensed the drugs, and who wrote down names and details. He, apparently, is opening his accounts.
All of this straight into the mug of Major League Baseball, which was supposedly fixing its problem, purportedly flushing out and cleaning up a sport whose integrity had been altered and records inflated by some of its best players, who had suddenly become even better.
Baseball deserves credit now for aggressively trying to nail guys. This could be the biggest PED bust ever. That's the good news, sort of. But here's the bad: Now, we find out that the altering and inflating is still happening a lot, after the plague was supposed to have been well on its way to eradication. The worst part about that is the aforementioned: Every great feat accomplished must still be met with automatic skepticism, not jubilation.
Man, that guy can hit! Is he getting extra help?
It's inescapable. In the back and front and top and bottom of everyone's mind is a disturbing thought dragging anchor: The players who are toasted one minute might be roasted the next. Cheer at your own risk.
In the meantime, the rewards are so overwhelming, the dollars stacked so high, that rationalizations are easy for players who might hesitate for, oh, about two seconds before they partake because of something as old-fashioned and sentimental as good moral fiber, or a sense of fair play. Screw that. The risks for cheating are minimized, the profits maximized. Even in the cases of those who do get caught, often they've already made more money than they ever could have otherwise.
It will always be that way, even if MLB, and other leagues in other sports, ratchet up their penalties. Even if they were willing to immediately cancel the contracts of dirty athletes, the money that's already been taken would remain with the perpetrators. And players unions will be in their corners, step by step, fighting their fight.
Praise MLB for getting after it here. But the sorry fact is, PEDs aren't going away and neither are those willing to cheat to win. They made fools out of all of us yesterday and they will make fools out of too many of us tomorrow.
GORDON MONSON hosts "The Big Show" with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM, 1280 AM and 960 AM The Zone.