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Never-ending talk about steroids makes us all losers

Tim Dahlberg Associated Press

You wish there were some good guys in this stinking drama to rally around.

You wish the whole thing would go away because this is a time, after all, when the grass turns green and hope is supposed to spring eternal for all baseball fans.

The good guys, though, are about as elusive as the real ingredients in the “clear” that Barry Bonds mistakenly thought was a nutritional supplement used to lower cholesterol, not build giant muscles.

Now that politicians have their fingers firmly imbedded in this juiced-up pie, get used to the idea that – no matter how much you hate to keep hearing about it – this will be the season of steroids.

You’ll hear about it from now through opening day as politicians, ballplayers, owners and union figures engage in a snake dance that couldn’t be any sleazier if it was conducted in a strip club rather than the halls of Congress.

You’ll hear it every time Jason Giambi comes to the plate and hits a routine fly ball that might have gone out of the ballpark a few years earlier.

The talk will grow as Bonds draws nearer to Babe Ruth and eventually passes baseball’s most revered icon, all the while thumbing his nose at the very fans who pay to cheer him on.

Finally, it will explode as he chases Henry Aaron and baseball’s home run record.

By then, you’ll groan at the very mention of steroids. You’ll turn down the television when the subject comes up, and scan past the stories in the newspaper.

Most of all, though, you’ll wish that performance-enhancing drugs hadn’t defaced the sport you love.

The sad truth is that they have, no matter how often Bud Selig winds himself up and pretends otherwise. The sad truth is that baseball’s records are as tainted as the drug samples the sport never bothered to take until after Bonds hit 73 home runs in one season.

Baseball owners won’t take any responsibility for the integrity of the game because they’re too busy building new stadiums and counting luxury box revenues sparked by the home run binge of recent years. Neither will baseball players.

So here come the nation’s lawmakers, who got where they are by being able to recognize opportunity when they see it. A House committee invited players, owners and union reps to come to Washington, D.C. on Thursday to testify under oath about baseball’s dirty little secrets.

This week, after figuring out the players wouldn’t come without a little persuasion, they issued subpoenas.

You would think Selig and his flunkies would embrace the invitations and be happy that stars like Giambi, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro and former slugging hero Mark McGwire would have a chance to clear their names before the season starts.

Instead, baseball attorney Stanley Brand reacted with the kind of outrage not seen on Capitol Hill since french fries were renamed freedom fries in protest over France’s stand on the war in Iraq.

Brand called the subpoenas “an absolutely excessive and unprecedented misuse of congressional power” and suggested the House Government Reform Committee was interfering with the federal grand jury in California by ordering Giambi to testify.

You might expect baseball’s union to object because unions are supposed to protect players no matter what.

But why is management so averse to seeing the truth come out? What is it that baseball has to fear from players testifying under oath?

“What kind of message does that send?” asked David Marin, a spokesman for committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis.

The kind that you have something to hide, of course. The same kind of message McGwire’s agent sent by asking, “What’s the ultimate purpose of the hearings?”

Meanwhile, the politicians are still opportunists, baseball’s management remains incredibly pigheaded and the players care only about covering their own backs.

As much as you want to find them, there are no good guys here.

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