Monday, December 17, 2007

************ SWINDLER'S LIST ***********

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Baseball had long been associated with mom, apple pie and America itself. Apparently in a misguided attempt to modernize its image, syringes, steroids and injectable human growth hormones have now become the vein popping and eye bulging face of our National Pastime. 86 major league baseball players, 29 of them currently active, have been officially named in the 409 page Mitchell Report for having their closest friends inject syringes fully loaded with anabolic steroids and human growth hormones into the 172 buttock cheeks in question. Let's start at the beginning. Some of you may not be exactly aware of what anabolic steroids and human growth hormones specifically are. You may even be wondering what the big deal is. If you include yourself among that group, take out your notebooks and pay attention.

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Anabolic-androgenic steroids are man-made substances related to male sex hormones. It's the specific male hormone testosterone that enables us men to amass muscle, be overly aggressive toward each other after a few beers and sex obsessed, women harassing juveniles until our later years when we need to ask our doctor for the little blue pill to continue practicing the same basic obnoxious lifestyle. Anabolic refers to muscle-building, and androgenic refers to increased masculine characteristics. Steroids refers to the class of drugs. These drugs are available legally only by prescription to treat conditions that occur when the body produces abnormally low amounts of testosterone, such as delayed puberty and some types of impotence. They are also prescribed to treat body wasting in patients with AIDS and other diseases that result in loss of lean muscle mass. Abuse of anabolic steroids, however, can lead to serious health problems, some irreversible. Today, athletes and others abuse anabolic steroids to enhance performance and also to improve physical appearance. Anabolic steroids are taken orally or injected, typically in cycles of weeks or months, (referred to as “cycling”) rather than continuously. Cycling involves taking multiple doses of steroids over a specific period of time, stopping for a period, and starting again. In addition, users often combine several different types of steroids to maximize their effectiveness while minimizing negative effects (referred to as “stacking”).

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The major side effects from abusing anabolic steroids can include liver tumors and cancer, jaundice (yellowish pigmentation of skin, tissues, and body fluids), fluid retention, high blood pressure, increases in LDL (bad cholesterol), and decreases in HDL (good cholesterol). Other side effects include kidney tumors, severe acne, and trembling. In addition, there are some gender-specific side effects. For men - shrinking of the testicles, reduced sperm count, infertility, baldness, development of breasts, increased risk for prostate cancer. I think I just described half the old men in my own family as well as sitting Vice President Dick Cheney. Scientific research also shows that aggression and other psychiatric side effects may result from abuse of anabolic steroids. Many users report feeling good about themselves while on anabolic steroids, but researchers report that extreme mood swings also can occur, including manic-like symptoms leading to violence. Depression often is seen when the drugs are stopped and may contribute to dependence on anabolic steroids. Researchers report also that users may suffer from paranoid jealousy, extreme irritability, delusions, and impaired judgment stemming from feelings of invincibility. Maybe this helps explain the always sunny disposition of the class of '86, Barry Bonds.

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So why would baseball players risk their health and very lives by injecting steroids? There's clearly millions of reasons. In some cases there's more than 20 million reasons annually in fact. Take the aforementioned Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens to name two. 45 year old Roger Clemens pitched for the New York Yankees as recently as the playoffs back in October. Clemens came up with my beloved Boston Red Sox in 1984 as a "flame throwing" right hander. He was a great pitcher for mediocre Sox teams for 13 seasons. Then it became apparent that "The Rocket," as he was affectionately known, realized his great career may be coming to an end. Clemens was past 34 years of age and it was not unusual for hard throwers to be ending careers at that point much more often than becoming born again. Between 1993 and his last year in Beantown, 1996, the three time Cy Young Award Winner had a record of 40 wins and 39 losses. Boston reluctantly let Clemens leave for Toronto in 1997 right around the time the then 35 year old was alleged to have entered into his close relationship with steroids. In his two seasons with Toronto, Clemens took on the appearance of the Phoenix rising from the ashes. He won 41 games and lost only 13. He won his fourth and fifth Cy Young Awards and parlayed his success into a megabuck free agent deal with the hated New York Yankees. Clemens pitched great for nine more seasons with the Yankees and his home town Houston Astros, winning 2 more Cy Young Awards and finishing with more wins than losses each and every year. His last two seasons were very similar to his closing days with the Red Sox more than a decade ago. Clemens, however, made enough money to buy the world and all the steroids it holds over a 11 year part deux of a 24 year major league career.

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Yeah, Roger was one of the gang of 86. His agent vehemently denies it but after all, that's what agents do. Roger's not in Cairo, but he's in denial. Cheaters love cheating, it's the getting caught they hate. If Roger is innocent, he can sue major league baseball and make more money than he made pitching 24 years, but he won't. You can't sue for slander or libel when the accusations are true. You don't have to believe me, Rocket, ask Barry. What galls me about this whole steroid issue is baseball had no policy banning steroid use. Why would they, the legends who hit and pitched like Gods were good for business. MLB even ran an ad campaign for a while with the slogan, "Chicks dig the Long Ball." I don't think those same chicks were too crazy about the shrinking testicles, violent mood swings and male PMS, however. The players deceived the fans, their teammates, the opposition and most importantly the game itself. Some of the cheaters claimed they did it because everybody else was doing it. Some did it to prolong mediocre careers to in effect steal money. Some for pure ego, they couldn't tolerate seeing others steal their thunder. I feel most did it because they could. Baseball turned a blind eye and is now outraged that their private shame is public. Steroid use will now stop the same way the pep pills from the previous generation stopped. What will it be next? I have no idea, but rest assured, some geek in some lab is hard at work developing something that will make a pitcher throw harder and a batter to hit harder. Whatever it is, I hope a side effect of the substance makes white guys dance better. I love the night life, but my boogie skills need a lot more of some magic juice.....

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