The authors of the greatest achievements in the history of sports ultimately have looked the camera in the eye and said, "Yep, I'm a stinking liar." So why, at this late act in the athletic morality play, would we necessarily believe anyone so insanely driven to excel and win — whether it be to climb the Pyrenees or win a $100 bet on a Pirates-Astros game? They clearly are willing to risk everything.
When ESPN "Outside the Lines" reported Tuesday that Biogenesis founder Tony Bosch has agreed to cooperate with Major League Baseball officials and that MLB will seek to suspend at least 20 players connected to the Miami-area clinic — including Alex Rodriguez or Ryan Braun — my reaction was neither outrage nor glee. It was neither a yawn over another performance-enhancing drug saga or awe at the fact that if the potential suspensions stand the PED scandal would be the largest in the history of American sports.
No, my reaction was much more hardened and cynical. And it was this: Who's going to show up as the bigger liar? The implicated players or Bosch? For if you are expecting the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God you are a fool.
From the cases of Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee, Rose and Ron Peters and on down, we have repeatedly seen these are not simply a case of the honorable and the dishonorable. This isn't Al Capone's word vs. Mother Teresa's word. No, this is the messy, messy underbelly of the human condition. This is the ugly place where athletes are so obsessed with victory, so obsessed with getting every last drop of performance from their body that they are willing to join hands with the scumbags of humanity.
This is the ugly place where the compulsively driven meet the unscrupulous devils happy to fulfill any desire. Isn't it the Book of Biogenesis where Adam needed a steroid-laced apple and the serpent was more than happy to oblige. I'd love to tell you all the PED cases are so morally different from an uber-competitive Wall Street trader finding a coke dealer to fire him up so he'll have the energy to track down a tip for some fly-by-night stock. But I can't. And I won't.
According to ESPN, MLB will drop its lawsuit filed against Bosch and indemnify him from any liability arriving from his cooperation, while also furnishing him personal security and even offering support in case any law enforcement agency were to try to bring charges against him. Until this week, remember, Bosch had publicly denied he was involved in PEDs with players and corroborated Braun's contention that he merely served as his consultant.
Bosch looks ready to flip. He is not the most pristine of witnesses. There are credibility issues. There are character issues. He's willing to name names now, but his spoken words clearly do not carry the weight of his records and receipts. Does he have the phone and text records? Does have the credit card transactions and canceled checks? Does he have FedEx or UPS logs? Are his records organized, legible and well-kept enough to furnish evidence and scream believability. Look, I would bet plenty Roger Clemens is lying about his PED use, but his lawyer Rusty Hardin worked over McNamee well enough in the courtroom to get the Rocket off in his perjury trial.
When a man's freedom or millions of dollars on his contract are at stake, he will do just about anything, say just about anything. In an arbitration hearing, following any suspension and following grievance, Bosch surely would face a frying from the players' lawyers. Will he stand up to the heat? This is a long, long way from over. This also isn't to say Bosch would be lying.
Look at the other side. Look at A-Rod. He has told so many tall tales that I'm halfway expecting him to be represented by Jon "That's The Ticket'' Lovitz in this case… Boli and cousin, only used PEDs from 2001 to 2003 in Texas, confusion over whether he was injected or not … what's next, A-Rod?
I no longer live in a world where I hope somebody willingly steps forward to tell the truth about steroids or HGH or some another PED. I live in a world where I hope there is adequate evidence and enough corroboration that the cheaters are so cornered that they will sing to save their sorry hides or go down with the evidence.
There are over-eager prosecutors. There are shaky judges. There are greedy baseball lords who turned their heads for too long while home runs went flying out of their stadiums. But if we don't believe in the law, what do we have? No law. If we don't believe in anything that those who run baseball do, what is our recourse? To believe solely in the players' association honchos? Their very existence is based on protecting the players. The players association is going to fight most everything right down to possible 100-game suspensions for some as second-time offenders. It will fight the decision that denying the connection to Bosch constitutes as a first offense and the PED use is a second offense.
This is a fight to the end and it is a fight that never will end. I refuse to be part of any sports media or sports fandom that would plead "steroid fatigue" or doesn't care if players juice or not. Legitimate media, legitimate legal minds, legitimate lovers of fair play … they must chase the cheaters forever. It is almost laughable how baseball was so slow to join the chase but now sees it was wrong to believe it had successfully contained PEDs.
It ain't over. It'll never be over.
The cheaters are one step ahead and the only answer is to nail them when they periodically stumble and make mistakes. Scare them. Never let them rest.
Don't let Braun rest. As Michael Rosenberg of Sports Illustrated pointed out, Braun wasn't afraid to attack the reputation of sample collector Dino Laurenzi, a working stiff like most of us, after the 2011 NL MVP had tested positive for elevated testosterone levels. Braun won his appeal on a technicality, because Laurenzi kept Braun's urine sample at his house an extra day before having it delivered. Although there was no evidence Laurenzi tampered with anything, Braun said: "There were a lot of things that we learned about the collector, about the collection process, about the way that the entire thing worked, that made us very concerned and very suspicious."
So now we're supposed to disregard Braun's 20-to-1 testosterone to epitestosterone ratio [when 4-to-1 is a positive result]. So now we're supposed to believe that $20,000-$30,000 in Bosch's log next to Braun's was merely a consulting fee. To use Braun's own words, there's something very suspicious.
This brings us to A-Rod. The Yankees don't want him back. Yankees fans don't want him back. The team obviously would love to void the more than $100 million he has left on his $275 million deal. Although there's language in a standard player's contract that suggests the Yankees could try to do so, the truth is they would be in one hell of a legal fight. Yet with lingering hip problems and a potential 100-game suspension, there are plenty of reasons to believe at 38 in July, he will never play again for the Yankees.
So maybe as matters progress, as his own options shorten, as he looks to some kind of contractual settlement and to save a piece of his legacy, maybe A-Rod will feel cornered enough to the do the most remarkable thing of all: Tell the truth. Then again, don't bank on it.
Bank on the evidence. And never let the cheaters sleep.