It seems that baseball and steroids go together like hot dogs and apple pie. And the unwillingness of baseball's top officials to get tough on the drug-enhancing issue has harmed the Great American Pastime.
With Barry Bonds and Jason Giambi bulked-up like muscle-bound weightlifters, fans know that something's going on. With that smell of steroids hanging over the game, fans are beginning to question the performance on the field. The result will be less fans in the stands.
So baseball today agreed to a tougher steroid-testing policy that would punish first-time offenders. Unfortunately the agreement shows just how powerful the players' union has become. At best, the agreement is weak. At its worst, it flaunts the abuse in the face of fans.
If the agreement is approved, first time drug offenders would face a 10-day suspension. But it would take four positive tests before a player is banned for a year. That, in my opinion, allows far too many chances for an act that is illegal in the world of baseball.
In Olympic sports, for example, a first-time positive test for steroids results in a two-year suspension. A second positive test brings a lifetime ban. I see nothing wrong with implementing this same rule in baseball or any other sport.
I'll readily admit I know nothing about steroids. But I do understand they enhance the performance of an athlete. And the one issue that can ruin all sports is when one player holds an unfair and illegal advantage over another. Fans will not accept that loss of fairness regardless of how many home runs Barry Bonds may hit.
At stake is the integrity of the game. And given today's agreement, baseball still has a long way to go to assure fans that the playing field is level for all concerned. In the long-run, today's agreement falls far short of addressing the real issue.
We fans deserve better.