Steroid era isn't over with Roger Clemens case
By Dale McFeatters
The Olympic motto, unofficially since 1894, officially since 1924, is "Citius, Altius, Fortuis" ― faster, higher, stronger. Note that it is not just a simple "fast, high, strong." The comparative form suggests continuous improvement.
Since mankind ― and its animals; let us not forget horses, dogs, fighting cocks ― first engaged in contests of skill and speed, the search for comparative advantage has been intense and relentless.
Roger Clemens, a pitcher who threw faster and harder than most, has just been acquitted in federal court on all charges of lying to Congress about using performance-enhancing drugs. He has been cleared, but, in the opinion of many journalists who follow these matters closely, not vindicated.
Clemens is eligible for the first time for the Hall of Fame this fall. Being a first-ballot Hall of Famer may be baseball's highest honor, and Clemens clearly has the numbers to clear that hurdle ― a 354-184 record, a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts.
Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro, admitted users of performance-enhancing drugs, have not made the Hall of Fame ― at least not yet. This year, Clemens, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa are first-time eligibles.
Baseball writers cast the ballots for the Hall of Fame. Many writers see the vote on admission as a sort of referendum on the "steroid era," and would be happy to see it pronounced over. But it's not over, and never will be.
The sports chemistry will get ever better; the detection mechanisms will always lag; and for a Triple-A athlete for whom all that stands between him and the big leagues is a needle, the temptation and rewards will be beyond enticing.
With some sports ― cycling, for example ― the fans don't seem to care about doping. Anti-doping agencies are seen as busybodies, and many people view doping in privately run sports as none of the government's business. Indeed, governments have often been complicit. The powerhouse East German teams of the communist era, for example, were testament to the miracles of chemistry.
Almost all high school and college athletes come to the point when they realize this is as far as their career is going to go. But what if there's the promise of pharmaceutical help? Faster, higher, stronger.
Dale McFeatters is an editorial writer for Scripps Howard News Service (www.scrippsnews.com).