There was much hubbub this afternoon about Rockies’ closer Manny Corpas potentially doctoring baseballs in yesterday’s game. Apparently, Corpas intentionally dumped Gatorade onto the front of his uniform shirt before going to the mound to pitch.
The idea is that Corpas did this to make his shirt sticky and then when he touched the garment with his hand, he would be able to get a better grip on the ball.
You can’t do that. It’s cheating.
Besides, there are much easier and better ways to make oneself sticky. For instance, Corpas could have rolled around on top of a mix of Sugar Daddies or Sweet Tarts. Try throwing a ball as hard and as smooth as an egg with that crap on your hands – it turns a baseball into a wiffle ball.
Anyway, I watched the tape of Corpas’ outing and it seems like much ado about nothing. He did go to his jersey once, but immediately wiped his hand clean on his pants… then again, maybe he had stickum on his trousers.
The smooth right-hander Kyle Lohse relieved Kyle Kendrick with two outs and the bases loaded in the fourth. Not only did summoning Lohse mean that he would not start Game 3, but it also meant that the Phillies had lost the lead. Four pitches in, Lohse gave up a grand slam to Kaz Matsui to make it 6-3.
I think the manager is being second-guessed here in the press box.
That will happen…
My days as a science cheat were very short lived. Actually, unlike Floyd Landis, Justin Gatlin and now Marian Jones, and the host of athletes nabbed in failed drug tests and a blanket of bad excuses, my dabbling in cheating ended quickly after it began.
No, this tale has nothing to do with altering my body chemistry to become bigger, stronger and faster, but in the end, cheating is cheating. Right?
Nonetheless, this story was just as sordid and dirty for everyone (well, just me, actually) caught up in the tangled web of the controversy. Or something like that. Better yet, like one can deduce from following the cases of Landis, Gatlin, Jones and every other notorious drug case permeating sports during the past two decades, my case involves greed, pressure, arrogance and the desire to make oneself look better.
Sounds dramatic, right? It was. You see on the way home on the last day of school in eighth grade, I steamed open the envelope holding my report card, pulled out the red pen from my backpack I had secured just for the occasion, and changed my grade. Yeah, it still makes me queasy thinking about now. What was I thinking? A red pen? In the bushes near my house on the way home from Wheatland Junior High? Science? Cheating?
The motive, honestly, was simple. I needed a C in eighth grade science to finish the year on the Honor Roll. Science was never (and still isn’t) my thing, so getting a C was a tall order. With the extra pressure of actually making it onto the Honor Roll thrown in, it was just too much to handle. When I opened my report card and not surprisingly saw that big, round D taunting me from the thin, official-looking piece of paper, I felt as if I had no other choice than to turn that D into a C.
Now I know exactly what you are thinking. Everyone thinks the same thing when hearing about Landis and is 11-to-1 testosterone ratio, or Marian Jones’ positive test for EPO, and every other cheater caught in the web of credibility. The question is why. Why do it and how did I think I could get away with it?
Honestly, with the aid of two decades of retrospect, I never thought it through that much. I saw the glory of the Honor Roll, which for a mediocre student like me, was major. You see, my academic record sounded a shrill, annoying alarm of a classic underachiever when examined. My sister, on the other hand, lacked the diversity of the alphabet sampler on my report cards. She was consistent and never had to worry about getting a B, let alone not making the Honor Roll. And because we are so close in age, the competition was fierce.
But, again with the aid of 22 years to ponder my cheating escapade, it never really made sense. Why did I desire to be on the Honor Roll so much? Isn’t it odd that people were rewarded for doing what they are supposed to do, which is get good grades? Worse, the pursuit of such accolades for doing work you were supposed to do just seemed so… tacky.
Needless to say, my ruse was quickly discovered. The C covering the D in red pen just looked too suspect and unprofessional even in those days before the proliferation of computer databases, e-mailed grades, and easy access to information via the Internet. We were still using pen and paper in those days, folks.
But unlike any other science cheat, I didn’t waste anyone’s time with a series of lame excuses. Unlike Landis, I didn’t use a late-night whiskey binge as an excuse for my poor grade. Nor did a masseuse rub in an illicit steroid like with Gatlin, or was I “framed” like Jones’ camp offered when she failed her drug test.
Framed? Yeah, because Jones’ running is just so vital to our national interests.
But there are many more excuses a science cheater like me could have used. Remember when Ben Johnson ran so fast in the 100-meters finals during the 1988 Seoul Olympics that it appeared as if he was either going to combust into flames or take off in flight? Yeah, well, that speed came from Winstrol, the same steroid reportedly favored by Rafael Palmeiro.
Ben’s excuse? Someone dosed his water bottle. Rafael’s? He thought it was a B-12 vitamin that teammate Miguel Tejada gave to him.
Still, those are better than the excuse Barry Bonds reportedly gave during his grand jury testimony in attempt for prosecutors to glean more information for the star-crossed slugger’s role in the BALCO case. In admitting to using “The Cream” or “The Clear,” two hardcore and ultra-scientific designer steroids, Bonds said he thought he was just rubbing flax seed oil onto his body.
Suffice it to say, my cheating days ended there. The effort, coupled with the guilt, made it not worth it. Besides, the time put into cheating could better be used for studying, or in other cases, for working out and getting stronger naturally. Honestly, it’s not too hard to do it that way. Then again, it seems as if the big thing for athletes these days is not winning or losing, but not getting caught.
Anyway, the real lesson came from my dad when he told me, “You know, a D turns into a B a lot easier than it turns into a C.”
There was an interesting story in today’s New York Times regarding the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA), and its head, Dick Pound, and the extreme and Draconian pressure it continues to put on honest and clean athletes.
The story, written by Gina Kolata, explains how WADA and Pound have determined that endurance athletes, namely cyclists, runners, skiers, and triathletes, should not be allowed to use altitude tents or altitude rooms that simulate the low-oxygen conditions of high altitude. According to WADA, sleeping, resting, sitting, reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or surfing the Internet in a room that simulates the atmosphere found in places like Boulder, Colorado Springs, Albuquerque, or any of the other mountain meccas where endurance athletes live and train, violates WADA’s idea of “the spirit of sport.”
Meanwhile, if an athlete lives in a shed on some ramshackle mountain road with the big horn sheep, yellow-bellied marmots, and elk routinely found in high altitude, or in Flagstaff, Ariz., well then that’s just fine and dandy.
For runners and cyclists, high altitude training is a good way to build endurance and lung capacity before returning to competition at sea level. Regular training at high altitude, usually classified as 5,000-feet or higher, prompts the body to make more oxygen-carrying red blood cells and can lead to improved endurance. According to recent studies, sleeping at altitude provides the benefits at a better rate than actually working out in the thinner air, but as someone who has spent a few weeks a year over the past 10 years running at nearly 8,000-feet in Estes Park, Colo., sleeping in the mountains never made me feel winded. That 13-mile run is another story.
Nevertheless, altitude tents and rooms have become so popular with endurance athletes, including those in Nike’s distance running program, that the use of them has trickled down to more mainstream athletes. According to the story in The Times, even the hometown Flyers have jumped into the tents.
So with the story out there and the small, yet cliquish world of endurance sports clamoring with outrage, what does the always outspoken Pound or any other representative from WADA have to say?
Insert crickets chirping here.
Yeah, can you believe that? Pound was quiet for a change.
Pound, of course, has been a crusader for keeping sports clean. That in itself is admirable, because when the athletes are dope and steroid free, the sports are better. Just look at this year’s Tour de France in which three of the top riders were ousted from the race just days before the start because of questionable drug tests. Had the Tour or cycling not been so bold as to take a hard-line stand about doping in its sport, chances are no one would have ever heard about Floyd Landis. Certainly Landis’ story is a lot more interesting than hearing commentary about Bobby Julich or Jan Ulrich.
So with that, Pound and WADA’s goals are very admirable, and it would be interesting to see real baseball, football or basketball played by athletes that are held to the high standards that endurance and Olympic athletes have to meet. But where Pound and WADE fail is when they continue to wipe away the line of personal privacy in regard to the crusade.
Pound and WADA also have been one of the many groups stalking Lance Armstrong because of his rumored use of EPO and doping during his seven-year dynasty at the Tour de France. This is despite Armstrong never having failed a drug test and, unlike some baseball players, the cyclist has threatened to sue any group accusing him of illicit and performance-enhancing drug use.
Last month Armstrong sent a letter to Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, in which he requested that Pound step down as head of WADA. In his letter, Armstrong claimed that Pound was guilty of "reprehensible and indefensible" behavior in the manner in which Pound made repeated drug-use accusations aimed at the cyclist.
As for the issue with the tents, here’s an excerpt from the story in The Times:
“Ninety-five percent of the medals that have been won at Olympic Games have been won by people who train at or live at altitude,” said Joe Vigil, who coaches Deena Kastor. She holds the United States women’s record in the marathon. Kastor lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., at an altitude of 7,800 feet, and often trains at sea level.
The decision on whether to ban hypoxic devices has taken many athletes and exercise physiologists by surprise, but the antidoping agency has quietly spent the past few years considering the issue, said Dr. Bengt Saltin, director of the Copenhagen Muscle Research Center. Saltin was a member of the agency’s health medicine and research committee until two years ago.
“We have discussed the issue a lot,” he said.
In Saltin’s opinion, the altitude tents and rooms are no different from going to “a suitable mountain area,” only cheaper. Banning the altitude tents or rooms, he said, “should not be on the WADA or International Olympic Committee’s priority list.”
That is also the view of the 76 scientists and bioethicists who recently signed a letter to the World Anti-Doping Agency expressing “grave concern” over the proposal to ban the tents and rooms.
The letter’s lead author was Dr. Benjamin D. Levine, director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital and a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, both in Dallas. He said the antidoping agency was starting down a perilous path.
“This is a pretty slippery slope,” he said. “WADA is going to lose their credibility with the scientific community, upon whom they depend to further their mission, by pursuing this. And how to enforce it is a whole different question.”
In addition to Levine’s letter, the Center for Sports Law and Policy at the Duke University School of Law recently issued a position paper opposing the notion of banning the altitude tents and rooms.
So just for fun, if WADA wants to determine how and where athletes can sleep maybe it would be a good idea to help them out with a few other issues with running and cycling that seem “unfair.” Why not ban the following:
Ice (frozen water is just so... unseemly)
Cities with Wi-Fi access
Cities with an extended trail system
Brakes on a bike
Powerbars (Clif Bars are OK… they’re organic)
Water for showers or whirlpools
The letter E
Hopefully, as soon as WADA gets rid of that pesky altitude maybe they can do something about humidity.