As he waits for George Mitchell’s report about performance-enhancing drugs in Major League Baseball to be released Thursday, Brian Derwin can only chuckle and feel a great sense of satisfaction.
Mitchell’s report is poised to name at least 50 big-leaguers who used various sorts of substances over the past decade or so.
Coming from the former U.S. Senator from Maine, it will be a blockbuster — no matter whose names are named. Come tomorrow afternoon this time, Commissioner Bud Selig and the Players Association will be scrambling and spinning like chain-smoking handlers after a presidential candidates’ debate.
Derwin laughs, with much scorn.
Doping expert calls baseball clueless
“Baseball is clueless,” said Derwin, of Apple Valley. “If baseball would have had a realistic and responsible testing protocol years ago, all of this would have come out a long time ago.”
Derwin was once the president of USA Weightlifting, a sport always slammed for oversized guys (and now gals) supposedly munching on steroids like M&M’s. He was a founding member and chair of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Anti-Doping Policy Committee. He was one of the architects of the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, an organization that worked closely with federal officials to indict Barry Bonds and raise the consciousness of Congress around drugs in sports.
But Wednesday, on a break from his job as sales rep for a medical supply firm, Derwin said: “No matter what’s in this report, I still think baseball has a long way to go. Baseball is clueless to young kids and their parents. Kids look to baseball people as heroes. But baseball is looking at it as entertainment — both the union and the owners. They’ve had their head in the sand for so long.”
And then we got to talking about how sports such as weightlifting and track and field are years and principles ahead of baseball. The little sports always get ripped for being drug-infested. But that’s because they test, they reveal, they punish. Harshly. Publicly.
Indeed, if baseball handled drug busts and cheating like Olympic sports do, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa — all of whom could be named Thursday by Mitchell — would see their homerun records wiped from the history books.
Homerun records are tribute to steroids
Bonds hit 73 dingers in 2001. McGwire launched 70 blasts in 1998, followed closely by Sosa’s 66 in the same season. These numbers stand as testaments to baseball’s steroid era.
Now, let’s look at how the International Olympic Committee punished Marion Jones, the poster child for “champions” who have fallen because of cheating. Just this morning, the IOC stripped Jones of her five Olympic medals, including three golds, from the 2000 Sydney Games.
As occurs in most international sporting events, the IOC looked, then, to transfer the gold medal in Jones’ 100-meter victory to the second-place finisher. After all, if the winner cheated, then No. 2 should be elevated and awarded, right? And if the second-place competitor cheated, then No. 3 should be declared the honorable winner.
“That is as it should be,” said Derwin.
The global standard is clear: keep going down the list until you find an athlete in the competition who competed cleanly.
There’s another standard besides a clear positive drug test. Right now, Bonds, McGwire and Sosa — who haven’t tested positive, as far as we know — all fall in that secondary basket. It’s called the “non-analytical positive.” It’s when an athlete is declared to be a cheater through clear documentary evidence or testimony, not a lab test. (This is how Bonds and McGwire have been put on the ropes.) It’s a term used by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the national doping cops. It has nailed track athletes, including one-time “fastest man in the world” Tim Montgomery, and has been upheld by various courts.
In a sense, the Mitchell report is about to be a non-analytical positive on the Major League Baseball industry of the past decade. Testimony. Documents. The preponderance of the evidence.
The once and future king?
So, consider the single-season home run list:
1. Barry Bonds, 73, 2001
2. Mark McGwire, 70, 1998
3. Sammy Sosa, 66, 1998
4. Mark McGwire, 65, 1999
5. Sammy Sosa, 64, 2001
6. Sammy Sosa, 63, 1999
7. Roger Maris, 61, 1961
Looks like Maris is the only clean slugger there. In any other sport, he’d be the Home Run King once more. Brian Derwin, an anti-doping crusader from way back, pondered that prospect. And he chuckled at baseball some more.