Getting More “Hip” By The Day

by Rant on January 27, 2014 · 14 comments

in Alex Rodriguez, Baseball, Doping in Sports

It’s about time I put something new out, isn’t it? Yesterday was 16 weeks since my accident, and I’m doing better. For the last two weeks, I’ve been able to put 50% weight on my right leg (that’s 50% of my body weight, or an equal distribution of weight on both legs if I stand still). And I’m able to drive, which is good. While I’ve appreciated all of the carting around my wife did for me since I took my fall, I’m happy to be mobile for myself again.

Not too terribly happy about the weather here. We’re headed back into the deep freeze for the next few days. And while I like winter and being outdoors in winter, when it’s so cold that your nose hairs freeze on contact with the outside air, it’s just a wee bit too cold for man or beast.

If there’s been an upside to the past almost four months, it’s that I’ve gotten plenty of reading done, and I’m making progress playing the guitar (which is what I do most nights before sacking out). So that’s the progress report. Getting closer to full mobility. Earlier today I had another checkup with the orthopedist. Since the healing is going well, I’ve “graduated” from using a walker to using a cane. Definitely, moving up in the world.

To answer Buzzy B’s question on whether I’ve accessorized my walker: Yes, I have. It’s got a cup holder (really) and I added some gel pads for the hand grips. Took me six or eight weeks to “upgrade,” but both modifications made the time a little easier. One guy I work with suggested flame decals. I told him I’d put them on if he provided them. Still waiting, but with today’s upgrade it’s a moot point, anyway. The walker is now going into (I hope permanent) retirement.

But onwards to a few short musings about the world of dope.

The Never-Ending Apology Tour

So, is Lance still out there trying to convince folks that he wants to help clean up the sport? Seriously. Is he still out there on his “Reconciliation Tour?” Over the last couple of months I’ve managed to put that completely out of my mind. I gather that Brian Cookson, the new head of the UCI, has set up a commission to look into the sordid past — or at least the sordid past 15 years. I suppose you can’t investigate everything that’s happened in the sport since the sport began (that would take nigh on forever), and that a line has to be drawn somewhere. But there’s nothing magical about the last 15 years. They were just the culmination of trends that had existed for decades.

Still, I wish them the best of luck. If the commission can gather a reasonably complete picture of doping during that time frame, they will understand the magnitude of the problem. And perhaps they will even provide an outlet in the vein of a “Truth and Reconciliation” commission. One can only hope.

But whatever the commission uncovers, and whoever comes forward to tell their stories (maybe even a certain resident of Austin and Aspen?), the real change that has to be followed through to completion is the shift from a “do whatever it takes to win” attitude to a “do the best you’re capable of naturally” attitude within the sport. On the surface, it appears that such a shift is under way. But it’s what happens behind the scenes that will determine whether that shift is successful.

A-roid Gets A Year’s Vacation

So it looks like Alex Rodriguez (better known as “A-Rod” or “A-roid,” depending on your point of view) gets to sit out the entire 2014 season. From what I gather, this is the longest suspension handed down in Major League Baseball. So that’s significant. From the news reports, it appears that the arbitrator wasn’t swayed much by Rodriguez’s arguments, but he did win a small victory. The original suspension was slated to be more than 210 games, so he can at least take comfort in the fact that his suspension is only for the 2014 season (the full 210+ games would go about a third of the way through next season).

Not that he takes any comfort in that thought, however. Going into the regular court system to overturn the judgement, ala the Lance Armstrong playbook, A-rod shows the same kind of attitude that a certain cyclist had for many years. (Assuming you believe that Armstrong is genuinely sorry for what happened in the past, and not just sorry he got caught.) I’m sure A-rod’s lawyers are only too happy to rack up the billable hours, but unless they have some truly compelling evidence that refutes the case against him, I don’t see the suspension being thrown out. And if they did have such evidence and didn’t introduce it during the arbitration, shame on them.

A couple of weeks back, 60 Minutes did two segments (part 1 and part 2)on the whole A-rod drama, drawing much of their material from interviews with Anthony Bosch and Bud Selig. Bosch’s tale sounds eerily familiar, a combination of what Jose Canseco said years ago, mixed with BALCO and a dash of the whole Armstrong-US Postal team thrown in. Perhaps the most telling part of the interview, to me, is that Bosch was using the same techniques to beat the system that Victor Conte had figured out more than a decade ago. And his attitude towards helping A-rod and others dope was pretty much the same as Conte’s.

It’s also a testimony to the idea that the “do whatever it takes” attitude permeates more than just cycling. Rodriguez, with his $250 million contract has literally millions of reason to dope. In order to maintain the performance level he needed to fulfill the contract, he had to find a way to extend his performance capabilities beyond the natural limits that the aging process imposes on all athletes, from the weekend warrior to the superstar. In the end, none of us can beat the effects of time, we can only postpone them. And A-rod had plenty of reasons to try and postpone the inevitable. With this suspension, he’ll be about $25 million poorer for the effort, but he’s still got all he received prior to his suspension, and whatever he will receive after he comes back. All in all, from A-rod’s perspective, maybe the risk was worth it?

In part 2, Bud Selig, the outgoing commissioner, said something to the effect that Rodriguez’s case is the biggest scandal to rock baseball. Perhaps. But I’d suggest that the dust-up over the home-run derby in the late 90s was a pretty big deal. And the whole Barry Bonds/BALCO scandal was a pretty big deal, too. As was the testimony (some of it misleading from the likes of Roger Clemens and others) before Congress by certain players a few years back. And the Mitchell Report. Selig has been in the sport for 50 years or more. Surely he knew before Rodriguez’s case that doping with steroids has been pretty rampant during most of that time. (Steroids go back to the mid- to late-60s among pitchers, with others catching on within a few years.)

So even if Rodriguez’s case is a big deal today, there have been others that were just as big.

Where it maybe goes over the top is in the ways that Rodriguez or his associates might have approached keeping his doping quiet. According to 60 Minutes’ reporting, Bosch thought he might be killed if he ratted out A-rod. If true, that’s pretty sinister. Definitely something beyond the pale.

Of course, it’s easy to develop tunnel vision when one works in a certain field. And it’s easy to miss what to outsiders might seem the blazingly obvious. So maybe Bud Selig wasn’t aware, or wasn’t paying attention to the seamy underbelly of the sport. And maybe this really is, to him, the biggest scandal to rock baseball in a long, long time. (Black Sox, anyone?)

Me, I’m a bit of a cynic and a skeptic. And I haven’t followed the sport as a fan for about 20 years now. Given the huge paychecks some of these players get, the temptation to take shortcuts to enhanced performance will probably always be there. So there will probably always be someone who dopes and eventually gets caught, generating yet another scandal in the process.

I saw recently that MLB has implemented a biological passport system, which may (or may not) help catch those who are cheating over time. But for it to be successful, many, many samples need to be collected and analyzed from each player. Unless MLB is willing to pay the cost to effectively implement the program, it may have a deterrent effect for a short while, at least. At least until someone figures out how to beat a limited implementation of the biological passport.

The sanction A-rod received is by all accounts the toughest ever meted out. But will it serve as a warning to others? I’m not convinced, yet, that it will. As always, time will tell.

Post to Twitter

MattC January 28, 2014 at 9:21 am

Welcome back Rant…glad the hip is feeling better and you’re that much closer to walking without artifical aid (tho the cup holder idea is pretty cool…you could actually mount that to a cane if you were so motivated). As to A-rod, hmmm…isn’t his crimes something akin to what Armstrong got a lifetime ban for (a systematic doping program over most of his career)? I say let him go find a new job…I’d say he’s shown total disregard for his sport and needs to go away…just my 2 cents.

Rant January 28, 2014 at 11:27 am

Good point, Matt. I’m not sure if the rules are in place to give him a lifetime ban, but given his apparent systematic doping over the years, if anyone deserves it, it would be A-rod.

As for the cup holder on the cane idea, that’s an interesting one. Might be a bit tricky to avoid spilling my coffee. But maybe one can be made that would automatically stay level … hmm, there’s an idea. (Actually, it’s much easier to carry a cup of coffee when using a cane than when using a walker.)

MattC January 28, 2014 at 11:49 am

Rant, they make ‘free-swinging’ cupholders for boats…look in a marine store. However there is a limit as to the speed and severity of the swing before they spill.

William Schart February 7, 2014 at 7:27 am

Glad to hear of your progress.

In regards to A-Rod, while a lifetime ban probably wasn’t an option, it is quite likely to be close to a virtual lifetime ban. He will turn 39 this sumer, and I am sure that his skills will deteriorate due to the layoff. The thought also occurs to me that his skills just might have been based to some extent on his PED influenced strength. Assuming he stays clean over the year off, his strength and speed will deteriorate and that could upset his timing etc.

Then there’s the question of whether or not the Yankees or any other team will really want him. Over the years he hasn’t always performed all that well plus there’s the likely negative publicity factor that goes with his PED usage. So it just may be that his MLB career is pretty much over.

William Schart February 7, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I see that A-Rod has dropped his suit seeking overturn his ban. While he didn’t provide any explanation, from past info it seems he is interested in continuing to work in baseball when his playing days are through and doesn’t want to end up like Pete Rose. The estimated $10 million price tag on the suit may have also had something to do with it.

BuzzyB February 11, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Hey Rant! Keep healing. Are you allowed any PT yet? Is swimming allowed? Careful on the ice. Another big storm coming through the northeast this week.

MattC February 11, 2014 at 1:21 pm

Just saw this article over on Velo news: http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/02/news/inquiry-commission-urges-riders-with-doping-pasts-to-come-forward_316836

Here’s the opening paragraph:

GENEVA (AFP) — An inquiry commission set up by cycling’s global governing body, the UCI, on Tuesday appealed to riders who were doped in the past to come forward in exchange for reduced punishment.

Yeah, this will work. Becasue everybody who is doping and still riding is SUPER anxious to come forward right now, spill their guts and then get banned for their troubles. I bet they are lining up at the door as I type!

Rant February 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

William,

Interesting that A-rod dropped his lawsuit. Maybe he realized he’s fighting a losing battle. And there’s a very good chance it wouldn’t be settled before he’s eligible to start playing again. So, other than spending a boatload of money, I don’t know that it would accomplish much for him. I think you’re analysis is right. He’s an aging player whose abilities only diminish with time (like all athletes), he will be less valuable when he comes back — assuming that he does come back. We’ll see if the Yankees or anyone else will have him at that point. (Contractually, the Yankees probably have to take him back, but a whole lot can change in a year. Maybe they’d pay him a fee to just go away.)

Wasn’t there also something about A-rod’s attorney filing a defamation lawsuit (with the lawyer as plaintiff) against the New York Daily News or the New York Post? That sounds like a whole `nuther wild goose chase to me.

BuzzyB,

Yep, I’m allowed to do more now. Swimming every other day. Up to about half of what my previous swim workouts would be. Able to ride on my indoor trainer now, too. Even able to use a treadmill (as long as I hold onto the support rails). And I’ve got some crampons on my cane (they flip up when not in use) to give me a bit of extra traction on snow and ice. (Who knew such things exist?) Rumor has it the deep freeze will be leaving Milwaukee soon. One can only hope. One step at a time, things are moving in the right direction.

Matt,

Good find. I’m sure there’s just a whole bunch of riders just champing at the bit to come forward and tell their tales of depraved doping in the peloton. Why let a little thing like a ban get in the way? ;-)

William Schart February 13, 2014 at 8:59 am

Any rider currently active would be reluctant to come forward, but then many riders from the Armstrong era are retired or will soon be retiring. However, there still is a disincentive to talking, even for retired riders. Some of these will be interested in continuing a career in cycling as a coach, or team official, or perhaps as a journalist, or even as a brand name (a la Lemone) or bike shop owner. UCI/WADA could throw a monkey wrench into these plans. While they might not be able to do much directly to prevent Lance or Floyd or whoever from sitting in their home or office somewhere and writing articles about cycling, they certainly could restrict a journal’s access to races etc. Same thing about coaching; might not be able to restrict someone from running some sort of coaching business away from any team, they perhaps could make things hard for a rider who signs up for such services. Might not be able to ban them outright, but might subject them to additional testing and survaillance.

Then there is the court of public opinion. Would you buy a bike branded with the name of some doper? Would you patronize his bike shop?

If UCI/WADA are truly interested in having riders (and other athletes) come forward about doping in the past in order to better understand the nature of the problem, far better to keep everything confidential, with not penalties. Why not take the statute of limitations interval, say no matter what, if you come forward past that, we will keep everything confidential and not seek and ban or extention of the SOL like what they did with Armstrong.

William Schart February 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

Well, we now have an Olympic athlete who tested positive:

http://espn.go.com/olympics/winter/2014/icehockey/story/_/id/10505967/2014-sochi-olympics-sweden-top-center-nicklas-backstrom-tests-positive-banned-substance

If indeed the banned substance was in an allergy medication, I wonder why he did apply for a TUE?

Liggett junkie February 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Yesterday I was in the grocery store and saw ‘The Armstrong Lie’ as a selection in one of those red video vending machines. Was this ever in movie theaters? or is this direct-to-video?

BuzzyB February 28, 2014 at 4:52 pm

News reports are that the SCA arbitration panel is going to force Armstrong to testify under oath. Interesting… Has he run out of escape hatches?

William Schart March 2, 2014 at 9:48 am

They might be able to force him to appear, but whether or not he could be forced to testify is another thing, there being that pesky 5th amendment. I’d imagine he could also simply pony up the $ in despute or otherwise reach a settlement and avoid the whole process, if he was so inclined.

On the other hand, what more damage could he possibly do to himself at this point? I suppose there might be an issue of perjury or the like involved in past cases. He might not want to go on record in sworn testimony contradicting previous testimony he has given. But then, quiite likely that ship has already sailed, or at least, cast off moorings.

On the other hand, SCA may well want to crucify him publically, and may not be willing to settle up.

Liggett junkie March 4, 2014 at 1:36 pm

You know, it’s a shame that Mr. Armstrong didn’t just go ahead and commit a murder instead — because by now, everyone would have forgotten about it after a couple of years’ worth of hi-profile athlete murders, and LA would be busy making commercials for coffee and running shoes.

Previous post:

Next post: