"Reports of large numbers of positive tests currently unreported are totally false," the statement said. "Reports of 'big name' players having the reporting of their test results delayed are totally false. All drug-testing results are processed in precisely the same manner and without regard to the identity of any player or to the volume of positives at any given time. These media reports and rumors are totally and completely inaccurate, and do not deserve further comment." Yet the rumors and speculation will undoubtedly continue. Baseball and union officials will not be believed. Skepticism often is healthy, but in this instance it is unfounded. The same can be said for comments that have been made by congressmen who want to save the world from steroids.Better that they would spend their time and energy trying to save the world from smoking. The surgeon general of the United States has reported that more than 400,000 people die each year from smoking. Not even Gary Wadler (steroids expert) and Tom Davis (steroids congressman) would suggest that steroids kill more people than cigarettes. Yet they go on about steroids as if they are the scourge of the world.
They especially like to criticize baseball for its policy on performance-enhancing substances. Initially, they said baseball's testing program was ineffective because it had not caught any big-name players. Then the program snares Palmeiro, one of only four players in history with 500 home runs and 3,000 hits, and they say, "See, baseball has a problem and it's not doing enough to get rid of it."Appearing on an ESPN program last week, Representative Patrick McHenry, Republican of North Carolina, said he thought chances were getting better that Congress would pass steroids-testing legislation that would apply to all sports "because of baseball's inability to police their own players."McHenry did not spell out what he meant by baseball's inability to police its players. Efforts to find out were unsuccessful. His press secretary said McHenry would call me, but he has not.Was he referring to Palmeiro, and that because he tested positive baseball wasn't properly policing its players? Was he referring to the number of major leaguers who have tested positive, a grand total of 8 out of about 1,000 players tested this season? That's fewer than 1 percent.Was McHenry suggesting that baseball is remiss in its steroids oversight because not even one player should be using and testing positive? Whatever he had in mind, McHenry might want to notice that the National Football League hasn't been exactly pure. Both the league and the federal government have investigated whether a number of N.F.L. players visited a doctor in South Carolina who prescribed illegal steroids for them. Have the Olympics been pure? Seems some of those athletes have been found to have used performance-enhancing substances and banned from competition for two years or worse. But Wadler and his fellow experts cite Olympics testing as the gold standard.