The League

Sean McCann
Beat Writer

Sean McCann

Former Philadelphia Eagles beat writer for Gannett

Drugs were baseball's lifeboat

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From almost the beginning, the NFL treated its drug problem with some respect, as a threat to the integrity of its extremely popular and lucrative product. Major League Baseball treated performance-enhancing drugs like a golden goose during a lean winter.

With no more convenient alternatives in hand, the MLB has passed the buck to the public in its half-hearted fight against steroids and other enhancers. Put another way, Monday's mildly uncomfortable ESPN interview - and the public backlash that comes from it -- is the worst it will get for Alex Rodriguez, unless he tests positive again or comes up for election to the Hall of Fame.

The NFL's system of testing, penalties and treatment may not be perfect at catching cheaters, but it was ahead of a curve that MLB wanted no part of. Baseball knew its stars were juiced, and looked the other way. In fact, baseball needed the drug-fueled home run races to recover from the disgrace of a cancelled 1994 World Series. The owners themselves wouldn't erase the bloated accomplishments of Bonds, McGwire and Clemons, even if they could restore the reputation of their game by doing so. Drugs had the power to do for baseball what nothing else could: make it exciting again.

It's impossible to say what effect performance-enhancing drugs have on the present-day NFL, and it would be naïve to say they have none. But the question is about public perception, which says the NFL's attitude toward drugs has been serious, diligent and right-minded. The same public saw Major League baseball drag its feet all the way to Washington, then lie to Congress.

The worst news yet for Major League Baseball: lies - including A-Rod's -- are no longer met with surprise.

By Sean McCann  |  February 10, 2009; 2:42 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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