Following on the heels of the triple play I wrote about last week, we have two more collisions in the worlds of sports and drugs. First former NFL star Jamal Anderson was arrested on felony cocaine possession and misdemeanor marijuana possession. This story has additional legs in the sense that although retired from playing, Anderson had recently been gaining stature as an ESPN commentator. (And, I’d like to add I think he’s really good at it and was hoping he would increase that stature.)
But this story was dwarfed by the revelation that Alex Rodriguez tested positive for steroids in 2003. This was later confirmed by Rodriguez who said in an interview that he had used performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003. The stature of this story raised even more when it was President Obama discussed his disappointment with the news during his first Presidential press conference.
We have talked at length about the dangers and problem of performance-enhancing drugs in sports and I will gladly revisit that, but I have a different problem I’d like to discuss. The steroid test that Rodriguez failed was part of a sampling that led to the creation of MLB’s drug testing policy. It was taken under the strict guideline that it remain private. MLB was specifically trying to find information and not penalize anyone. Additionally Rodriguez is only one (albeit a very notable one) out of 104 players who tested positive. Yet, he is the only one who’s name has been made public.
Look only at my profile picture (taken at my beloved Fenway Park alongside the Green Monster) and you can guess that I typically am not an A-Rod fan. And, considering my long standing love of baseball, I am incredibly disappointed at the news. But the truth is, I think this is so detrimental to solving drug problems. We need safe havens of information. Someone who is using drugs – whether it be a billion dollar athlete or a teenage son or daughter – needs to be able to expect a level of confidentiality.
The drug screening that A-Rod failed served its purpose. It helped identify the size of a problem and in turn led to MLB’s drug testing policy. That’s what it was intended to do. Why on earth would the player’s union ever consent to a similar agreement in the future when the promise of confidentiality is so easily broken? Likewise, how can we expect our children to reach out for help if they think that in doing so their honesty will be used against them at a later date?
Yes, Alex Rodriguez lied when he told interviewers that he didn’t take drugs. But we hold institutions up to a higher threshold of integrity. Interestingly, I think A-Rod will finally come across as human and although he may lose some endorsements, he might very well reform his reputation. Will the same be said about the people who broke a trust and leaked his name?