The Athletic Reporter
September 12, 2005 Sports News the Way You Want It. Completely Made Up. Issue 127
The Average Mulder
by Joe Mulder
Another In a Long Series of Final Words About Steroids

I'll keep this short, because I'm sick of writing about steroids. I'm sick of hearing about steroids. Everyone's sick of hearing about steroids. Last spring, all we heard about was steroids, as if everyone thought, "okay, we'll talk about it now, to death, and then we won't have to anymore."

But no. The Red Sox won the World Series -- I'll repeat that, in capital letters so it looks like shouting: the RED SOX WON THE WORLD SERIES -- and we're still talking about steroids.

Or, like Mark McGwire, refusing to talk about steroids.

Let me just say one thing about a small part of the issue: a debate I hear from time to time is one concerning the presumption of guilt of certain baseball players like McGwire or Sammy Sosa, guys who have never tested positive for steroids, have never admitted to talking steroids, but, to many, seem to have obviously taken steroids. This will come up, and, inevitably, some simp with the intellectual capacity of Jim Rome after getting hit in the face with a shovel will say, "well, yeah, I thought in America you were innocent until proven guilty. Isn't that the way we do things? Is this still America? This isn't Russia, is it? 'Cause if this is Russia, I better get a furry hat and do that dance where you squat and kick your legs out, if this is Russia, instead of America."

Or some such. At first I thought the argument was tiresome, until I realized that it was ridiculous. "Innocent until proven guilty" is a tenet of the American legal system and, in instances that don't involve the American legal system, can be remarkably useless, and never more so than when applied to the issue of steroid abuse in Major League Baseball. Until very recently, steroids were not explicitly banned by baseball, were not tested for in any meaningful matter and the use of steroids was not, apparently, regarded as "cheating," per se, by many within the game.

Essentially, there existed no mechanism (unlike the American legal system, with it's jury-of-your-peers setup) by which a baseball player could possibly be proven guilty of using steroids. For the presumption of innocence even to be an issue, there has to be a way to prove guilt. To say that baseball players accused of using steroids in the mid-90s are "innocent until proven guilty" is to say that they are innocent, period, because proving them guilty amounts to a virtual impossibility, regardless of what they did or didn't do.

I'm not saying the presumption of guilt should be automatic in the cases of McGwire, Sosa et al, I'm just saying that the idiotic "This is America! Innocent until proven guilty!" argument holds no water here, and that an unfortunate side effect of baseball's steroid non-policy of the 1990s is the fact that the only venue we have to try these players is the court of public opinion.
Joe Mulder

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