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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The needles and the damage done

It was nice to see Alex Rodriguez come clean Monday afternoon and admit to ESPN's Peter Gammons that he did, indeed, use steroids from 2001-03.

He was forced into it, of course, because he was outed by Sports Illustated over the weekend. But the mea culpa was appreciated nonetheless, at least by this longtime baseball fan.

But A-Rod's "young, stupid and naive" explanation was laughable.

Young? Sure.
Stupid. No doubt.
But naive? Spare me.

The word "naive" suggests Rodriguez didn't know what he was doing. Of course he knew what he was doing. This was 2001 - three years after Mark McGwire's 70-homer season and all of the drug suspicions that came with it, and long after the word "steroids" became part of the baseball vernacular.

A-Rod - like McGwire, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Jose Canseco, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmiero, Andy Pettitte, Miguel Tejada and yet-to-be-indentified others - was a cheater, and he knew he was a cheater.

And for that, there is no forgiveness. And there now is no way to trust the validity of any of A-Rod's on-field achievements before, during or after the years in which he admits using performance-enhancing drugs. (This is, after all, the man who swore to CBS' Katie Couric and millions of "60 Minutes" viewers in December 2007 that he never used such substances, so forgive me if I choose to believe nothing he says now or in the future.)

If the Steinbrenners had any backbone, they'd show A-Rod the door, even if it means having to buy him out of his multizillion-dollar contract. But they won't. The Yankees are, after all, the team that allowed admitted juicers Giambi and Pettitte to remain in pinstripes, so there's no reason to believe they'll treat Rodriguez any differently, especially given the amount of money they have invested in him.

The sad reality is that the only way to clean up baseball is to shut it down - for five, maybe 10 years. Let all the current players become too old to return, start over with a fresh crop, and have the new Major Leaguers pee in a cup before every game. If they test positive for any banned substance, they're out of the game ... forever.

Anything less than that and baseball will be just an exhibition rather than a legitimate competition.



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