Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is Baseball Hanging Paul Byrd Out To Dry?

So Paul Byrd admitted that yes, he did take HGH from 2002 to 2005. Byrd says it was for a pituitary problem, and that he had a prescription. He also says that the Indians knew about his past HGH use, and so did Major League Baseball. However, both the Indians' GM, Mark Shapiro, and a spokesman for MLB deny that. Which makes Byrd look pretty bad, especially if you are a fan dead set against players taking performance-enhancing drugs.

But I think it's possible Byrd is getting a raw deal here. I know professional athletes aren't the sharpest tools around, but if Paul Byrd didn't actually have permission from Major League Baseball to take the HGH, it strikes me as odd that he would say he did. Surely he would realize, if he's lying, that someone from the league offices would come out and say "No, we did not give him permission to do that", so it strikes me as a bit odd that he would try and say that if he didn't believe it was true. Now maybe wires got crossed, and someone rubber-stamped it without informing the higher-ups, and that person either isn't around to mention that (retirement, transfer to a different job), or they're afraid of getting canned if they do. Or. . . (and here's where we venture into the tin-foil hat territory)

Baseball is trying to make a big deal about cleaning up their sport now, after they were oh so willing to look the other way before, when it appears PEDs may have been helping people hit more home runs and getting fans back in the seats (note I use the word may; hell if I know who was actually taking performance-enhancers, or how much help those players were getting from them). Now baseball is convinced fans don't want their players on drugs (and I'm not sure how true that is; a lot of fans don't seem to give a damn as long as the guy taking them helps the hometown team win), and worried about Congress wasting time and money poking around, and here's a pitcher who says he had a medical condition (which may or may not actually merit the use of HGH), and a prescription (from an online dentist, that's kind of odd) to take one of those awful, awful PEDs.

I'm not sure I can put it past baseball to deny giving Byrd an OK, because doing so might make them look bad. After all, if Byrd can get medical clearance to take PEDs, maybe other players start claiming medical conditions that require HGH or steroid treatments, then baseball has a mess because they either have to deny all requests (and look like insensitive pricks), approve all requests (and listen to sportswriters, Congress, and the fans who hate the thought of players doping scream bloody murder), or take the time and money to investigate each claim for validity, and probably assign their own medical examiner for that, which would probably never past muster with Don Fehr and the Players' Association.

I'm not saying Byrd's innocent here. The whole "online dentist gave me the prescription" thing is fishy, the clinic he got the HGH from is under investigation, which hurts him by association, and since Byrd has been kind of mum specifically about what the problem was - and I'd say he has that right; why should he let us go nosing around in his medical history - it's hard to know whether he falls within the range of requirements to be prescribed HGH (I've read it's only for children with Growth Hormone deficiency; I've heard adults can get it for different ailments, lots of conflicting reports). All of that works against him. I'm just saying I think we have reason to doubt how honest Major League Baseball's being with us.

As to the Cleveland GM not remembering, two explanations, one conspiracy-style, one not: 1) Byrd did tell a GM about his use of HGH, just not Shapiro. He played for 3 teams during the time he was getting the HGH shipments: Kansas City, Atlanta, and Anaheim. Maybe he told one of them, and forgot to mention it to Shapiro. 2) Baseball is putting pressure on the Indians to go along with them in the denials of Byrd's claims, through threats of lost draft picks or something. hey, I said it would be conspiracy-style. Of course, there's a third option, that Byrd is lying through his teeth, but I'm just not sure I buy that, in light of the particular claims he's made.

And someone who comments may point out that Byrd should share his medical history with us to clear his name, if he's so innocent, so I want to address that. Let's say Byrd does just that, shares his medical records with not only MLB honchos, but the public, and those records corroborate what he's been saying. Is it going to change opinions? The people who were giving Byrd the benefit of the doubt still believe him, and now have the evidence to support them. The people who doubt Byrd probably still doubt Byrd, and will claim he's falsifying his records somehow to protect himself. Think about it this way. Lots of players are suspected of taking PEDs, even though they've never failed a drug test (that we know of). Those non-failed tests satisfy the people who already believed the player was clean, but the people who think he's cheating are still convinced the player is doping and either is masking it, or taking something that isn't tested for (which is a valid point), or had cycled off before the test. I mean, from a public opinion standpoint, I don't know that the drug-testing accomplishes anything. Maybe it keeps Congress off their backs (though they're so ineffectual I wonder what they could actually accomplish), but has it convinced anyone the sport is clean now, or just made it even more obvious there's doping going on?

Personally, I'll choose to hope the players are clean, but I'm not going to be surprised if anyone tests positive.



At 12:44 PM, Anonymous Leoma said...

Great work.


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