Fair play for baseball is at the root of the Tony Bosch case

Posted Monday, Jun. 10, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton In the summer of 1976, when I was a mere pup, covering the first of what would become 16 Olympic Games — nine summer, seven winter — I had my first brush with the effects of performance-enhancing substances.

I was shopping for souvenirs in the Olympic Village’s Adidas store, and I suddenly found myself surrounded by ... dudes. German dudes.

Only they weren’t really dudes at all, but rather, judging from their ID credentials and warmup suits, female swimmers from the GDR, East Germany. And some frankly needed a shave.

That team of women would go on to set eight world records and win all but two Olympic events.

Twelve summers later in Seoul, I saw again with jaw-dropping awe what performance-enhancing substances can do. Canada’s Ben Johnson crossed the finish line first in the men’s Olympic 100 meters, obliterating the world record — and a guy named Carl Lewis — in 9.79 seconds.

Steroids work, in other words. An athlete can inject them or inhale them. He or she can rub them on his or her body, or stick a patch in a private place and wait for the steroids to work overnight.

Athletes know this. And people like Tony Bosch know that athletes know this, which is probably how Bosch’s Biogenesis “anti-aging clinic” was born.

My reason for referencing the two Olympic anecdotes is elementary. Nobody knows performance-enhancing substances better than the Olympics. No other sporting enterprise has absorbed more scandalous headlines, taken away more medals, or spent more money trying to rid themselves of them.

In that relative regard, therefore, baseball is the new kid in the foxhole in the war against performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). Fifteen years ago, baseball wouldn’t even admit it had a PED problem. The game and the media who covered it were too busy toasting Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa home runs.

But then came Jose Canseco’s book. The Mitchell Report. Barry Bonds’ head size. The leaked results from the supposedly confidential 2003 drug tests.

Major League Baseball and the players’ union have a new Joint Drug Agreement. Yet, it hasn’t stopped the cheaters, as the Bosch investigation attests.

That’s why the Biogenesis case is important. It’s about fair play. More and more major league players are speaking up and saying they have no sympathy for anyone caught using PEDs.

The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz appears to be caught in the undertow of the Biogenesis mess. His alleged client “nickname” showed up in the clinic’s records.

The media’s response to Bosch’s legal about-face and cooperation with MLB investigators has been amusing. Sigh. Everyone is suddenly a lawyer, it seems.

What my media brethren forget, however, is that this is not a criminal trial. There is no jury to convince.

When and if commissioner Bud Selig imposes suspensions, the players will have a right to file a grievance, which would then be heard by an arbitrator who was appointed jointly by MLB and the union. It’s now a union, it should be noted, that recognizes in these Donald Fehr-less times that it should have the best interests of hundreds of clean players at heart.

The lawsuit for tortious interference that MLB filed against Bosch might have seemed frivolous to most attorneys, but it allowed baseball to subpoena things such as Biogenesis’ phone and shipping records. With Bosch’s cooperation, MLB presumably now has the clinic’s entire ledgers — and Bosch to provide the road map for how to read them.

What Bosch testifies, therefore, is not going to be as important as the basic information he provides. I fail to see where Bosch’s credibility has been compromised simply by his having once denied — to ESPN, of all people — that he was innocent.

True, players who are suspended could eventually file suits. But the courts have been historically hesitant to interfere with decisions rendered by jointly approved arbitrators.

The Bosch case isn’t the ragged mess that some in the media have suggested.

It’s about time that people give fair play in baseball a chance.

Gil LeBreton 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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