MLB: Fehr declares steroid crisis over, but not so soon
By TIM DAHLBERG
AP Sports Columnist
By TIM DAHLBERG
The final word on drugs in baseball came not from the players, but their hired gun.
Union chief Donald Fehr delivered it Monday, declaring the steroid era over.
"We fixed the problem and we need to look forward, as Bud has said many times," Fehr said during a spring training tour in Florida.
Fehr wasn't just channeling Bud Selig. Alex Rodriguez spent the better part of a press conference last week talking about how in the future he hopes to become even less young and stupid than he was before.
Everyone, it seems, wants to move forward. Even the great Henry Aaron said the other day that Barry Bonds can have his home run record and he doesn't want it back.
And with spring training games beginning, who wants to talk about steroids anymore anyway? The grass is green in Florida and Arizona, and it's the time of year when every team is still a pennant contender.
The nosy New York media can do its part by leaving A-Rod alone and stop making trips to the Dominican to ferret out the real relationship between a trainer linked to steroids and the best player in the game. Quit writing about steroids and concentrate on something more socially significant — like A-Rod's alleged relationship last season with Madonna.
Prosecutors in San Francisco can help, too. Their case against Bonds has already been weakened by the exclusion of some key evidence, so why not just call it a day and quit trying to put the slugger in prison? Save the space for the real crooks, the guys who stole billions on Wall Street, instead of a baseball player whose only crime was that he wanted to get better.
Speaking of prison, hasn't Roger Clemens been harassed enough? He's one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game, so he should be able to lie when he wants to and to whoever he wants to, assuming, of course, that he wants to.
The best thing about declaring the steroids era over, though, is we'll never have to stay awake at night trying to figure out who the remaining 103 players are on the juicer's list that Fehr's union is trying desperately to keep secret. Moving forward for all those players really does mean never having to say you're sorry.
We'll be able to put aside all these years of suspicions and doubts. But for Fehr and the player's union it will be a bit more difficult.
Because they're the ones who insisted all along that there was never anything wrong.
It was nonsense, of course, to anyone who watched over the last two decades as players became bloated and musclebound, and home runs began flying out of ballparks like never before. But Selig wasn't going to risk another player's strike after the one that wiped out the 1994 World Series to get testing, and the union wasn't going to budge in its resistance to tests.
It wasn't until 2002 that the union agreed to a round of tests to even see if there was a steroid problem in baseball, and it took three more years and some heavy political pressure in Washington before it agreed to current penalties for players caught using.
Fehr may not have been shooting players up himself, but he did everything in his power to shield them from being caught. And for that he deserves at least equal blame, if not more, with Selig for defrauding fans with a bogus product and making the sport's most hallowed records little more than a joke.
Now he wants us all to move forward. He declared the steroid problem fixed, and expects us to believe that is all there is to it.
It's not, of course.
The spectacles surrounding the greatest players of their time will go on for years, as will the debate over the records set by juiced players. Every Hall of Fame election will be a referendum on who may have used and who didn't.
Fans, meanwhile, will still have doubts about just how clean today's players are. A-Rod may claim he hasn't used anything since 2003, but his credibility shrinks with almost every new day, and with 103 names still out there, everyone is still suspect.
Never mind that the testing is better, because it's still not good enough. Not only are there not enough tests and not enough random tests, but there is no test for human growth hormone. And, if recent history shows anything, it's that cheaters have always found a way to stay a step ahead of those chasing them.
Sure, Fehr wants everyone to believe it's time to move on. It's in the interest of his clients to do just that.
Believe it, if you will. I'm more inclined to go with words once said by someone who has done more for the game than Fehr will ever do, a scrawny catcher who kept winning championships without the aid of anything stronger than a cup of coffee.
Yogi Berra wasn't talking about steroids, but he could have been.
Because it ain't over 'til it's over.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org