A GRIP ON SPORTS
The Tour de France in going on. Baseball's home run derby is tonight. Track and field is in the news. What do these three things have in common? Read on.
• If you answered the joy of athletic competition, it's OK to laugh. It's pretty obvious what common thread runs through these sports right now. Performance enhancing drugs. The Tour has been, and probably always will be, rife with drug use. Even today, with a more rigorous drug-testing program in place, a cloud named Biogenesis hangs over major league baseball. And some of the world's top sprinters, including American Tyson Gay, were announced as having failed drug tests yesterday. The news (and rumors) of PED use has gotten so pervasive in our sports culture that such news doesn't even seem to phase us anymore. Heck, Doug Logan, former CEO of USA Track and Field, says it's time to give up the fight against PEDs and just admit the battle is lost. Let the genie out of the bottle and level the playing field by giving everyone the same opportunity. No rules. It's a tempting thought. After all, Logan points out the war has been lost for a long time. He's right in a sense. Every time a new steroid or hormone or designer drug enters the market, the cheaters have a huge advantage. It takes a while, some times a long while, before the testers can catch up. If they ever do. If it's true, as some say, only the incompetent ever get caught, then why not just say forget it, we can't keep up, everyone can use whatever they want? Simple safety. Envision this scenario is a Wild West world of no drug rules. It's a pretty plausible one. A young girl is a world-class sprinter (let's call her Charity), but even with the training help of HGH and a smartly administered steroid regime, she's still finishing fourth, fifth, sixth in her big races. She needs just a little boost to win that Olympic medal she's dreamt about as long as she can remember. That's when she runs into Shady, a guy with a promise. Use this designer steroid and all her dreams will come true. There are no rules, no testing, no recriminations. Everyone she is losing to, Shady says, is using it. Sure, it hasn't been tested on animals or anything, but it works. Her doctors tell Charity the drug is dangerous and she should use it. But there are no rules against it and the reward is so great. So Charity says yes. Soon she is winning big races, running past women who have edged her out for years. Her dreams are fulfilled. But she is about to become the next Lyle Alzado. Her body is changing, and not in all ways for the better. Besides stronger muscles and faster recovery time, something else has grown within Charity. Within a couple of years it is all over. After all, every drug has side effects, from the over-the-counter products you take for a headache to the powerful anti-cancer formulas used as a miracle cure. Drugs developed for one purpose, healing, can be detrimental if misused for another, competing. The desire to win is such a strong force in most world-class athletes that any thought of the future, of the ramifications of what they are doing, is pushed to the end of the line. Today there is a brake. The threat of getting caught has probably deterred quite a few folks, though we will never know. Eliminate the penalty and, if you want to win, a world-class athlete will have to become a user. The decision is out of their hands. That doesn't seem right.
• WSU: The Utah Utes may have two offensive coordinators – including former Cougar head coach Dennis Erickson – but the still need a proven running back.
• Gonzaga: Kelly Olynyk turned some heads in the Orlando summer league.
• Indians: The Indians are headed back home and they will be coming back after a victory, 8-4, over Salem-Keiser. Chris Derrick advances the homestand with this feature on the Ledbetter twins, both drafted by the Rangers this year.
• Golf: A final round 64 is just what Russell Grove (pictured above) needed to win the 50th Lilac City Invitational. Jim Meehan has the story.
• Mariners: It only took 95 games, but the Mariners can actually claim a sweep of a season series. They accomplished that Sunday with a 4-3 win over the disintegrating Angels. Hisashi Iwakuma returned to his early season form (or close to it) and Michael Saunders homered, giving the M's home runs in a team-record 22 consecutive games. The M's are official hot. Of course, now comes the three-day All-Star break, just enough time to cool off again. ... Raul Ibanez is looking forward to his break, even if he's having the best season of just about any 41-year-old in baseball history.
• Sounders: The Sounders weren't all that healthy going into Saturday's game at San Jose. Now they really aren't healthy. The Quakes inflicted a handful of injuries, some of them coming on iffy plays. Seattle is still trying to figure out who will be available this week.
• Another Monday, isn't it? One good thing this week, there is another major golf tournament on tap. Another chance for Tiger Woods to resume his historic march on Jack Nicklaus' record. And another week of "is Tiger back" stories. Great. Until later ...