When Doping Allegations Go Too Far

Posted on May 10, 2007

David OrtizI was appalled to see this headline in the Boston Herald a couple days ago:

Papi unwitting ‘roid user?

As was Papi himself.

How did that headline come about you ask? Here is the quote that sparked it:

“I tell you, I don’t know too much about steroids, but I started listening about steroids when they started to bring that (expletive) up, and I started realizing and getting to know a little bit about it,” Ortiz said Sunday. “You’ve got to be careful. . . . I used to buy a protein shake in my country. I don’t do that any more because they don’t have the approval for that here, so I know that, so I’m off of buying things at the GNC back in the Dominican (Republic). But it can happen anytime, it can happen. I don’t know. I don’t know if I drank something in my youth, not knowing it.”

Michael Silverman should be ashamed of himself for taking a benign comment and warping into a sensational headline which ended up hurting one of the nicest and greatest Red Sox of all time. Now Papi is saying he may stop talking to the media and that’s a total bummer. It’s not like these guys ever give us groundbreaking insight into the game during post game interviews but Ortiz is a good and fun guy and hearing him talk always reminds you that the game is fun and we shouldn’t forget that.

Hurting an impeccable role model and Bostonian like Papi for no reason is inexcusable but it looks like Silverman got what he wanted. I, along with the rest of Red Sox Nation, are talking about him and his article.

This coincides with some other doping related issues in the cycling arena. Sure, a lot of these guys are guilty as sin which is too bad for the sport. In fact, a lot of smaller races are starting to be cancelled due to lack of sponsors. They are all spooked by the doping scandals of course. The killer here is that the aggressive anti-doping procedures in cycling are very progressive (and good overall) but they are outing a lot of people and hurting the sport. Other sports who probably have similar doping issues are not being as strict so their sports are still thriving while cycling is taking a nose dive.

Most of the problem probably lies in the catty and unprofessional way the doping scandals are handled in the media (ahem - L’Equipe that means you) by the testing labs, anti-doping agencies and media alike. If they could all handle themselves with a bit more tact and professionalism perhaps the sport wouldn’t be taking such a hit.

On that note, I read the article in this months Bicycling Magazine about Floyd Landis and his fight to clear his name. Whether he is guilty of doping on Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour is still up for debate (I think he’s probably innocent or at least I want to believe he is) what seems to be clear is that the test samples were handled improperly and the results of the tests could have been easily affected in a handful of different ways. For the details please check out the info on Floyd’s Fairness Fund website. Bottom Line: the tests are probably inaccurate.

It seems that there should be some ort of anti-doping standard across all sports in order to provide the best attack on doping. It also seems like the testing facilities need to be managed better (i.e. have standards across all testing facilities - in Floyd’s case the French lab that hit him with the doping charge is much less strict in terms of handling samples and has a crummy track record compared to other labs like the one at UCLA).

The facilities should also have regular and unscheduled observation periods in order to keep their credentials. Lastly, the media needs to take a step back and figure out what the real story is and stop trying to sell papers will allegations that are unfounded (of course this gets back to the fact that we judge news in the same way we do entertainment which is worrisome in and of itself).

Will all of this happen? I am not sure but one thing that’s clear is reform is needed across sport, anti-doping agencies and their labs and the media before we can really rid sports of doping while continuing to preserve the sports.

Photo Credit: Waldo Jaquith on Flickr

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1 Comment so far
  1. Dave Butler May 15, 2007 8:27 am

    Well your post really involves two different issues, bad journlism and doping. The quote from Ortiz was so taken out of context its in another time zone.
    regarding doping and cycling thats a different story. Floyd is getting the big run up mostly because the french couldn’t get lance so they got the next American they could find (ie make sure no doped up Yanks win the Tour again).
    But cycling has a very strong doping culture that really needs to disappear or all the really big sponsors will disappear. Sure smaller ones in belgium, France and Italy will stay around but the big international companies will stay away.