Friday, January 4, 2008

What do doctors put in B-12 shots these days?

Former MLB first baseman Rafael Palmeiro did everything he could to absolve himself of responsibility for his actions. He tested positive for anabolic steroids only two months after appearing in front of Congress and declaring he had never done steroids. He changed his story a bit after the test, saying he had never "knowingly" done steroids and that a B-12 injection given to him by teammate Miguel Tejada caused a positive test.

Roger Clemens has now told essentially the same story to Mike Wallace on "60 Minutes." What did he say he used?
Lidocaine and [vitamin] B-12. It's for my joints, and B-12 I still take today, Clemens told Wallace in the interview.


So, who do we believe? Clemens' former trainer, Brian McNamee, had his story corroborated by Andy Pettitte, who admitted to using HGH.

As journalists, how do we cover people who could be caught in a lie without getting caught up in the situation ourselves?

Few situations have existed like the steroid story where journalists could have outed players for years, but never had the facts straight or the guts to do it. Buster Olney of ESPN.com, for one, has partially blamed himself and his colleagues for the lack of fortitude to cover the steroid issue better, earlier.

How do we cover the issue better so this doesn't happen again? Did journalists get caught being fans first and professionals second with their coverage of the situation?

1 comment:

Phil Murphy said...

I can't speak from experience, but I suspect the reason so many teammates and members of the media kept quiet about the ever-rising steroid problem in the late 90s was fear of being blackballed by those they were covering.

No one wants to be a rat, but this goes beyond that.

There is a degree of trust that exists between sportswriters and athletes. Better, and more trusted, sportswriters are allowed more personal access to those they cover. Michael Wilbon is one of a half-dozen people in the world who has Michael Jordan's cell phone number.

I'm sure a lot of what Wilbon and Jordan discuss is off the record.

Now, if something were to be said or done by MJ that would jeopardize his credibility as the greatest basketball player ever may be a different subject matter entirely.

I cover high school sports. I have personal relationships with many Northern Virginia athletic directors and coaches. All the time, I hear about coaches offering performance incentives to players that would violate rules and mores of amateur athletics. Whether it's a gift card to
McDonald's for the guard that hustled the most, a Coke to a kicker who can get a touchback on every kickoff, or a $5 wager that "you can't do more pushups than" me, a lot of what goes on between the parties is technically outside the bounds of acceptibility. Completely harmless, but disallowed nonetheless.

As a reporter, it is laughable to consider the prospect of whistle-blowing over something so trivial. I'd jeopardize my contact, and moreover my friendship.

Where do, or can, we draw the line?

My senior year of high school, I had dinner with a prominent Washington-area sports agent who represents many athletes in the NFL and NHL. He told me story after story of firsthand accounts of college recruiting violations by schools and boosters alike with many prominent, now professional, athletes. Did he have a responsibility to alert the NCAA of these schools and boosters for the greater good of 'recruiting purity?' Or is/was the epidemic so widespread that sullying a potential relationship with that student-athlete isn't worth the minute gain to which he would see no tangible benefit?

It's rational self-interest -- thank you economics minor.

All of these examples are newsworthy in the sense that they appeal to public interest. Therefore they -- theoretically -- ought to be reported.

But if all stories like this are newsworthy, are all news-eligible?

It may be cynical to conclude that the public finds some sense of satisfaction in the tarnishing of a legacy.

But look at the Mitchell Report. The sharks smelled the blood in the water and converged. Now every MLB record established from the strike on may as well have an asterick, as it is now more likely that it was achieved outside the bounds of baseball's drug policy rather than within them.

The question still remains -- and may always: How does one determine, of what is newsworthy, what is personally and professionally worth reporting?