Baseball Has Week In Doping Spotlight Too

Aug 26, 2012
Originally published on August 26, 2012 11:32 am
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIFE IS A BALL GAME")

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

That's right. If life is a ball game, you've got to play it fair. Mike Pesca, who always is on the straight and narrow, is with us to talk about folks who did not get that message. Mike, welcome.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: I'm not even wind-aided, forget performance-enhancing drugs.

WERTHEIMER: Well, what we want to know is what is your take on the big news about Lance Armstrong.

PESCA: So, Lance Armstrong wound up not fighting back against the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, U.S.A.D.A's charges that he doped for all his seven Tour de France victories. By not fighting back, it maybe plays as an admission of guilt. The same week two baseball players - Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants, Bartolo Colon of the Oakland As - they were suspended. Positive tests in their case. They were each suspended 50 games for heightened levels of testosterone. Not too difficult to say that performance-enhancing drugs could have helped both those guys' on-field performance.

WERTHEIMER: So, three big punishments related to performance-enhancing drugs. Does that mean our attitudes are changing towards steroids in this country?

PESCA: I think that the meaning that we impart to performance-enhancing drugs really has changed. I think there was a time when all that meant was just one word - steroids - and we said, oh, the East German female athletes who look like men, that's what steroids are, maybe some weightlifters. And then, it became the assault on the home run record, and that's when things began to change. Things really began to get ugly, and you couldn't go to a ball park that Barry Bonds was playing in without seeing dozens of signs really tearing into Bonds. Now, I think when you talk about Melky Cabrera and Bartolo Colon, they're joked about or laughed off. Sure, people think that it's wrong that they cheated - and they certainly did cheat - but it's not seen as dire or earthshaking. And the Lance Armstrong story, because it is tied into his fight with cancer and the $500 million his organization has raised in the last 15 years. I mean, I don't know how many people are high-fiving each other, saying, yeah, we got Lance. It's more a sad thing than anything else.

WERTHEIMER: Obviously, Armstrong does not fit into the Barry Bonds mold. I mean, there were a lot of people rooting all along for Lance Armstrong.

PESCA: There are a number of things going on. The personality of Lance Armstrong - I mean, this is a guy who hosted "Saturday Night Live," who was in all these comedy sketches, I mean, a likeable, personable, identifiable guy.

WERTHEIMER: Nice-looking too.

PESCA: Yeah. And then very few people in America really knew the history of the Tour de France. For a lot of people, bike racing was Lance Armstrong. Like, he introduced it to them. Whereas baseball, you know, 70-, 80-, 100-year-old records are important in baseball. You add that all up, it's a totally different attitude I think.

WERTHEIMER: So, Mike, a curveball?

PESCA: In a related story, I saw an article this week in an Australian newspaper, the Herald Sun. The headline was Cadel Evans, the Australian bike rider, could be seen as the moral winner of the 2005 Tour de France. Cadel Evans came in eighth in the Tour de France. How is he the moral winner? And they go through the first seven cyclists - Lance Armstrong was first and Ivan Basso of Italy was second - and all of them had either had a drugs allegation or suspension. Now, in some cases it was taking Claritin-D, which showed up as a positive; tells you a little bit about the sport of bike racing.

WERTHEIMER: NPR's Mike Pesca. Thank you very much.

PESCA: You're welcome.

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