Giambi Shouldn’t Be the MLB Scapegoat

Here’s my latest column from Sports Central:

While everyone in Major League Baseball remains quiet on the steroid issue, Jason Giambi is speaking. He may have opened his mouth too much this time on the issue that is a pebble in the shoe of Bud Selig and contributing to the decline of America’s Pastime. In everyone’s eyes, Giambi is becoming the scapegoat for Major League Baseball.Giambi_2

While being interviewed by USA Today Giambi acknowledged that he "shouldn’t have done that stuff." It was that quote in which Selig is now pressuring Giambi to meet with former U.S. Senator George Mitchell, who is investigating the steroid issue in baseball, or face being suspended and fined a large amount of money.

"What we should have done a long time ago is stand up — players, owners, everybody — and said we made a mistake," Giambi said to USA Today. "We should have apologized back then and made sure we had a rule in place and moved forward."

Giambi is not to blame here, but Selig and all the other key people in baseball — owners, GMs, etc. — who turned the other way on this issue and did nothing about it. While Jose Canseco (the most outspoken), Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and others were smashing home runs to oblivion, the leadership in baseball sat back and enjoyed the show.

They did nothing. They said nothing. They let it happen.

Michael Weiner, general counsel for the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPAA), responded to Giambi’s remarks:

"Jason will dSosa_2etermine how to respond to the commissioner’s request that he meet with Senator Mitchell after consulting with MLBPA counsel and his own lawyer. Such decisions are for the individual player to make, after receiving appropriate legal advice. We do not believe that grounds exist for disciplining Jason Giambi upon the newspaper article, anything which sprang from it, or his decision whether he will meet with Senator Mitchell."

Now that George Mitchell is not getting cooperation from players on being interviewed because of the union, Selig has fingered Giambi to talk to Mitchell and has made him the scapegoat for the players. The Yankees are already talking about voiding his contract, which has about $40 million left on it with a buyout option for 2009.

"Any admission regarding the use of illegal performance-enhancing substances, no matter how casual, must be taken seriously," Selig said in a statement to the media. "Discipline for wrongdoing is important … cooperation is important."

Giambi shouldn’t be the one pressured to talk for telling the truth. He came forward early on about this whole issue and told the truth while other players lied. They don’t want to talk about the past, but look ahead to the future or something along those lines. They want to be the best, but not naturally. This whole issue gave baseball a black eye and tarnished the reputation of many. What baseball has to do is just face the facts and tell the truth, like Giambi did. All Gaimbi did was speak his mind and that of Selig’s. At least someone knows what’s going on.

Shame on everyone else who didn’t speak the truth.

***

Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig’s comments on performing-enhancing substances, which was circulated to media and posted on MLB.com last season:

Dear Baseball Fans:

Major League Baseball has had record attendance foMlblogo_3r two years running and may set another record this year. It’s early, but pennant and wild-card races are competitive throughout our divisions. Baseball is enjoying a golden age of fan support and excitement. Our great game has never been more popular.

Yet, despite the good news in Baseball, there are problems. I was disappointed and angered by revelations that a Major League player had acknowledged using human growth hormone (HGH); a performance-enhancing substance banned by Major League Baseball, and had said that others were using HGH as well.

Seven-hundred-fifty great athletes play Major League Baseball. The overwhelming majority are hard-working, honorable individuals who play to win the right way. But among the seven-hundred-fifty, there have been and still are those who would cheat the game to gain an advantage. They hurt not only themselves, but they unfairly raise questions about the integrity of their teammates who play by the rules and they violate the trust placed in them by you, the fans. These players who use performing-enhancing substances offend all of us who care for the game and I will not tolerate their actions.

These individuals break the rules of baseball. But the use of steroids, human growth hormone, and other performance-enhancing drugs in this manner is also against the law. The investigative abilities of the FBI are powerful and baseball players are no different than anyone else in our society. If you break the law, you put yourself at risk.

I am committed to protecting our game. The Office of Commissioner of Baseball was created nearly 86 years ago to ensure the integrity of America’s pastime. I know my duty is to uphold that great tradition.

Last year, Major League Baseball and its players agreed to the toughest drug testing and penalty program for steroids in all of professional sports. We are proud of what we have accomplished. We ban and test for amphetamines. And, human growth hormone is banned, as well. We have cracked down and will continue to crack down on steroid users, but the use of HGH represents a threat to all sports everywhere.

Christiane Ayotte, the head of the Montreal Olympic testing lab, acknowledged this in an interview with USA Today last week. She said: "We know growth hormone is a problem. No sport is testing currently for HGH because (the test) is not available. If the test kit was available, it would only be effective for out-of-competition testing."

The writers of the USA Today story added that while there is a blood test for HGH, "…because antibodies necessary for the process are in such short supply, virtually no HGH testing is conducted. In addition, the test only detects HGH right after injection so it’s impractical for in-competition testing. As a result, there never has been an HGH positive."

As Commissioner, I won’t be deterred and will do everything I can to try to keep up with or even stay ahead of those who break the law and break our rules. But I suspect there will always be a few players who seek new ways to violate the rules, no matter how many we have and how often we toughen them. I also know that science can provide new ways to combat them and I will rely on our experts to keep on top of the science as it develops.

In the meantime, I want you to know that Major League Baseball is taking steps to address the issue. We are committed to funding a study of HGH and how to detect it. The study will be conducted by Dr. Don Catlin, a leading expert in the medical testing field.

Also, we are willing to make additional contributions to fund other studies to determine how to detect HGH and are currently reaching out to experts in the field to ascertain what other studies can immediately begin. We invite other foundations, unions, sports, and the Congress of the United States to join us in pursuing the detection and deterrence of HGH use.

The goal of baseball is simple. It’s a game that is to be won or lost on the field as a result of the natural talents of the game’s remarkable athletes. I will do everything possible to make sure that this one goal can always be met.

Allan H. (Bud) Selig
Commissioner of Baseball

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