There’s a list of names. There was never supposed to be. Somewhere in some office in San Francisco, in what I imagine is a locked file cabinet is a list of names. It’s baseball players who tested positive for steroids or other illegal drugs in 2003. The number varies depending on the source. 83? 96? 104? People I’ve spoken to say all are technically correct — 96 players, or just over 5% of baseball players, tested positive for some form of anabolic steroid, while 13 of them appealed. That there was no process for hearing these appeals, no penalties for testing positive, didn’t seem to be noticed. The other eight? “Drugs of abuse” baseball calls them now. Marijuana? Cocaine? Who knows?
You see, the list shouldn’t exist. Both parties agreed that the testing would be anonymous “survey testing” designed to see if steroid use was as widespread as thought. Baseball owners and the Players Association agreed that if more than five percent tested positive, it would trigger a more normal and comprehensive testing program, one that came with suspensions and other penalties. There was controversy. Some players didn’t want to be tested, either for the obvious reasons or out of protest over the invasion. Some players – a whole team, in fact – wanted to skip the test and trigger a “refusal” which would be considered the same as a positive test.
Egged on by a chapel group which included the manager, the White Sox felt it was their “Christian duty” to clean up the game. They ended up being tested. It will be interesting to see if any of those same Sox end up on the List. The problem is not that there was testing or that there were players that tested positive. We know that and have moved on. The problem is that there’s a list at all. Both parties also agreed that the testing would be completely anonymous and that results would be destroyed once the results were known. Instead, it turns out that there was a master list that matched player names to sample numbers.
Those samples, held at the drug testing lab in Las Vegas, could be matched up to the master list in direct violation of the agreement. Of course, when Jeff Novitzky, the IRS agent who led the BALCO-busting investigation, charged into the testing lab to seize samples, he didn’t just grab the ten he had a warrant for. He knew there was a list, tipped off by someone on the inside. He grabbed all the samples, catching not just the names on that still unknown List, but others. Thousands of names. Maybe yours. Quest Diagnostics is not only one of the largest labs for drug tests, they’re the biggest testing firm in the country. They do everything from routine medical screens to genetic workups. All of the computer records are in there, seized by the government in search of a List of athletes.
There are rumors that they have drug tests for hockey players, pilots, and casino workers, as well as medical records of thousands of people from Nevada, Arizona, and California. I’ll remind you again that the search warrant was for the samples of ten players, then I’ll leave that legal issue to the lawyers. When the Mitchell Report was released in 2007, many expected the List to slide into the conversation. Baseball – the Commissioner’s Office – has long had the List. I’ve seen what was purported to be that list, or at least a portion of it, but have never been able to independently confirm the information. I know other journalists have seen the same purported List. None of it has leaked. One baseball official told me in 2005 that the List was “the nuclear bomb.” There are names on there that will once again make people’s jaws drop, ones that we didn’t expect.
The problem is that none of this changes things. If you were shocked that Roger Clemens might have used steroids, you didn’t know much about Roger Clemens to begin with. The problem is that the scarlet “S” stamped on people is because most people think that by taking steroids, you might as well have the S on your chest like Superman. I don’t have to tell the readers of Mind & Muscle that steroids work; they do. But I also don’t have to tell you that they don’t turn you into a Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens. Anyone out there that’s used steroids think they could do a cycle or two then go hit a couple homers off Johan Santana? Bigger? Sure. Stronger? Sure. Faster? Sure, there’s proof, but guess what — those things work in football and track, but don’t really improve the things necessary in baseball.
You don’t see scouts in gyms or outside the WWE’s latest arena show. The American public continues to be ignorant, led around by the media’s ring in our nose. If sports is a circus, then steroid users have become the profitable sideshow. “Come see the freaks,” ESPN tells us. America loves nothing more than to build up our heroes only to tear them down. Fitzgerald once said that there are no second acts in life, but that’s what we crave. We want the comeback and if we have to be ignorant to make the script work, well, so be it. If we need to give up our individual rights and privacy to get out a meaningless list of guys that got busted five years ago, far too many people are willing to do it. We’ll cheer for Big Brown and ignore that he’s on a regimen of Winstrol and blood thinners. It’s all just a distraction, the modern equivalent of gladiator games or throwing a Christian to the Lions. Come to think of it, that might be on Pay Per View…