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Baseball's Real Dirty Secret

There has been plenty said and written about steroids in the last few days, months, weeks, and years, and justifiably so as ugly detail after ugly detail has been pried out of seemingly a parallel universe. Even with college basketball’s Final Four this weekend, I had to finally touch this scalding hot topic.

I, like many fans, was stunned when Ken Caminiti admitted in a Sports Illustrated article that he had used steroids while playing baseball, even in the 1996 season when he was named the National League MVP. A couple years later came the second confession from the Incredible Hulk himself, Jose Canseco. However, he was much more brazen than Caminiti. Not only did Canseco say he did steroids, he wrote a book implicating several others and claimed that steroid use was rampant in baseball. I did not give Canseco’s remarks any validity as it looked to me that he was just trying to incite uproar to sell more books and make more money. My suspicions were confirmed when Rafael Palmeiro, who was implicated in Conseco’s book as a steroid user, stood in front of congress and denied every using steroid. However, I began to change my mind when Palmeiro was suspended for using steroids, reportedly the same ones Conseco had said Palmeiro used in his book. Recently Game of Shadows has been released and it is the most valid chronicle of steroid use yet. Perhaps most telling is that Barry Bonds, the biggest name linked to steroid use in the book, did not sue for libel but did sue for the profits made off the book, claiming the writers in essence stole his story. All of this has led baseball to start testing for steroids, stiffen up penalties for steroid use, and most recently investigate the past use of steroids by players.

As bad as the steroid problem is, and it is extremely bad, there is another dirty little secret in baseball that will impact 2006 as much, if not more, than steroids. Along with the stiffer penalties that baseball put on positive steroids test in the off-season, they also decided to start testing for amphetamines for the first time ever. Amphetamines, or “greenies,” have been used by virtually every baseball player to gain a little “edge” before the game – to be a more specific, players pop a few of these small pills and get completely wired to the point that the pain accumulated over a long, grueling season is numbed and they can’t blink their eyes until sunrise. Players have been tired come August and September with the greenies; imagine how much more tired they will be without them. Or, will many take the risk and pop them anyway, leading to a breathtaking amount of suspensions? Nobody really knows how amphetamine testing will impact the game, but it has to be titanic just because of how prevalent greenies have been.

So, while andro, HGH, “The Clear”, and many other exotic terms for equally exotic steroids are bandied about in the media, keep an eye out for the impact of amphetamine testing. Greenies are baseball’s dirty little secret right now, but by the end of the year their presence, or lack thereof, could easily eclipse any talk of steroids.

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