Slate writers and editors dissect the Mitchell report.

Conversations in real time.
Dec. 13 2007 8:41 PM

Dope Springs Eternal

Slate writers and editors dissect the Mitchell report.

(Continued from Page 2)

Rosen: Yeah, spot on re: Clemens and Bonds. Let's see how quickly Clemens does or doesn't lose his endorsement deals, etc. Hey, has anyone tallied the number or pitchers vs. position players? I've always heard rumors that pitchers were on the juice in greater numbers because it helped with recovery between appearences.  

Engber: And catchers, for the same reason. But I wouldn't be surprised if that was HGH, for the most part—a drug which, unlike steroids, MAKES BASEBALL MORE FUN FOR THE FANS. Steroids make players bigger and stronger, which changes the game (for the worse) by boosting homeruns and strikeouts. HGH helps them recover from injuries, which changes the game (for the better) by keeping the best players on the field.

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Also, does Clemens really have endorsement deals?

Wilson: In the meantime, we could put together one hell of a diagram on how these guys got drawn in. A lot of them met Radomski through another player, often a Met, who was already buying from him.I've created an Excel spreadsheet that lists the 53 players that the report links to Radomski. Nineteen are pitchers and another eight are catchers—both groups seem overrepresented. Also worth noting: These 53 guys have more than 50 All-Star appearances between them.

Weintraub: The problem with that approach is that no one thinks this is a complete and total list—it's guys who used from Radomski, McNamee, and BALCO. There are plenty of guys around baseball grinning to themselves over the fact they weren't named. 

Swansburg: I'm curious to see how the fans will react in '08 to a guy like Pettitte. It's pretty easy to taunt Barry Bonds with steroid-themed chants when he brings his smug show to town. But Pettitte, with his Roman nose and stoic manner, has always seemed like a likeable guy—the kind of Yankee even a Red Sox fan feels obliged to tip his cap to. Will he be heckled?

Engber: Now we know the real source of Pettite's "Power for Living." God and juice. Nice job working the angles!

Levin: Mitchell writes: "Radomski also provided me with a number of documents relating to his transactions with players in Major League Baseball, including copies of deposited checks that he retrieved from his banks." I admit to never buying steroids from a batboy, so forgive my naivete, but isn't it weird that all of these guys were writing Radomski checks? What happened to buying drugs with wads of cash? If I'm in the market for a drug dealer, I'm not looking for the guy who takes personal checks.

Wilson: They even sign the checks the same way they sign baseballs, with big, loopy illegibility. I've been comparing them with autographed cards online, exactly the same.

Chadwick Matlin: There's that great scene in Friday Night Lights where Smash visits the bodybuilder to get his steroids. In his hand? A giant wad of cash he got from his local church.

Engber: Predictably, the Mitchell Report lumps together players who took anabolic steroids with players who took HGH.

The authors of the report are forced to admit that there's no good reason to condemn the use of HGH, either on medical grounds or to preserve the sanctity of the sport. According to pages 9-10: "A number of studies have shown that use of human growth hormone does not increase muscle strength in healthy subjects or well-trained athletes. Athletes who have tried human growth hormone as a training aid have reached the same conclusion. ... [A]thletes use it [instead] to promote tissue repair and to recover from injury."

In other words, it just helps players get off the disabled list faster. Is that really something to wring our hands over? The report goes on to say there are "potentially severe adverse side effects" to using HGH, including acromegaly and gigantism. And it goes on to list "possible side effects" like cancer, impotence, menstrual irregularities in women, and arthritis.

In fact, acromegaly and gigantism are generally associated life-long pituitary defects, not HGH injections. And the "possible side effect" of cancer has been associated with acromegaly, not HGH treatment itself. To be sure, regular use of HGH has side effects—fluid retention, joint swelling, carpal tunnel, and diabetic symptoms. But these are nothing compared to the effects of anabolic steroids.

In the absence of any coherent reasons to condemn the use of HGH, the report goes on to speculate that illegal HGH might be dangerously contaminated, since, for example, it was once (20 years ago) derived from cadavers with Creutzfeldt-Jakob (i.e., mad cow) disease. And that athletes might infect themselves with Hep C or HIV by using dirty growth-hormone needles.

Metcalf: Question: Setting aside our animus for politicians, do we want Congress to get involved? That is, someone with the power to compel binding testimony? Related question: This (Mitchell) was a means of fending off Congress. Is Congress placated? Or revving up?

Weintraub: Seldom does one ever want to defend politicians, but it was Congress that got this ball rolling in the first place (thanks to Canseco).

Levin: I have no doubt that Henry Waxman and Tom Davis will find a way to turn this into an opportunity for pointless posturing and grandstanding, just like they did in 2004. As Mitchell admits in the report, the vast majority of the cases that he's writing about happened between two and nine years ago. Is there anything new in here that requires Congress to act?

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