I can't believe how much press this story about Rick Ankiel using HGH is getting. It's being twisted into something that it simply is not. Ankiel, of course, was a promising 20-year-old pitcher with a killer curve ball that out of nowhere lost all his control and never regained it. He got injured in 2004, then attempted a comeback as a position player. Against all odds, he made it back to the majors, and is succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams. It's a classic tale of good, old-fashioned, American perseverance. It's the story of a kid who had it all, lost it all, and got it all back with hard work, because he had a burning passion for the game (or at least that is how it has been portrayed).
Here are the facts about Ankiel's situation. He pitched in only six games in the minor leagues in 2004 before suffering a serious injury. To aid in his recovery, he used HGH, a substance now banned by baseball but at the time perfectly legal. In fact, to my knowledge, HGH is a legal substance to use with a doctor's prescription, which also to my knowledge Ankiel had (admittedly my knowledge is limited here, so feel free to call me out on this one). Furthermore, it is safe to assume that many, if not a vast majority, of baseball players have used HGH to recover from injuries, but none have completed a comeback as remarkable as Ankiel's. So, his HGH use should not take away from his comeback at all. The only reason it is being spun that way is because his use of HGH contradicts the American values that have been infused into his comeback tale.
Ankiel's HGH use is nothing like steroid use. If anything, it is similar to Mark McGwire's use of andro during the 1998 season. Andro is now a banned substance by baseball, but at the time it was not. In the cases of both McGwire and Ankiel, it may seem like they cheated, but they were playing by the rules of the time. That's why I'm particularly irked that Ankiel's alleged HGH use is being spun as a sign of how corrupt baseball is, and especially how corrupt it has been for the past decade. There is no denying that plenty of cheating was going on, but why not point to the banned substances that Troy Glaus and Jay Gibbons allegedly acquired, both allegations that were published in the same report that claims Ankiel received HGH? Furthermore, the report says Gibbons received shipments of HGH in 2005, and it was a banned substance by that time. Those are the damaging parts of the report, not Ankiel's HGH use. However, because Rick Ankiel has become a pseudo-American hero with his uplifting tale of hard work and perseverance, his story is getting a vast majority of the attention, and the facts are being falsely manipulated in a way that makes him look like a fraud, and baseball look like a fraud.
I try to stick to more concrete analysis on my blog, but the continuing coverage of Ankiel's HGH use and the way it is being presented is getting on my nerves. In general, sports reporting tends to be solid and fairly impartial, especially when compared to other areas, such as political reporting. However, the Ankiel story is getting warped. The facts are out there, but they are being weaved together wrong. Ankiel is not a cheater, and his 2004 HGH use does not show how flawed baseball is. Gibbons and Glaus don't have the same name appeal as Ankiel right now, but the allegations against them are much more damaging to baseball than Ankiel's. It is unfortunate how the situation is currently being portrayed.