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say it ain't so

i was just telling alex belth of sports illustrated how the buzz surrounding ankiel dramatically altered the dynamic of the cardinals' season. talk about buzz kill . . . . let's assume for the moment that ankiel really did take HGH. i have my own reasons for assuming that it's true --- i know two of the writers bylined on the article containing the allegations, quinn and o'keeffe, and they're both excellent journalists and individuals of integrity. if they've signed their names to this, i take it very seriously. a third byline on that story belongs to bill madden, who --- while not my favorite crafter of prose --- has been in this business for 30 years and has a spotless reputation.

but set that aside and just look at the degree of specificity in the article. the daily news names the drugs, the company that shipped them, and the physician who signed the scrips. with that much detail, and that many names named, we're not merely talking about some wild and flimsy allegation. no successful news organization --- and the daily news, for all its sensationalizing, is definitely successful --- can afford to publish that amount of detail without being 100 percent sure of its facts. rupert murdoch didn't build his empire by exposing himself to libel suits for the sake of one splashy headline; that's not a profitable strategy. and murdoch publications are nothing if not profitable.Update [2007-9-7 9:46:44 by lboros]: my bad; this is not a murdoch publication (i never could keep all those nyc newspapers straight). the point stands anyway; the daily news has the 6th-largest circulation of any paper in the u.s.; it has won 10 pulitzer prizes and has been in continuous publication since 1919.[end update]

i'm pretty sure this is true.

the next question is --- so what? he had a prescription for the drugs, and they're legal with a prescription; and he received them in 2004, before mlb instituted its formal prohibition on steroids. therefore, ankiel didn't break any rules or do anything wrong --- right? i might be willing to accept that interpretation if i heard it straight from ankiel's mouth. if he truly did nothing untoward and has nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of, then he can kill this story in a single day. if i were his pr advisor, i'd get him out in front of the microphones immediately --- call a press conference and sit rick down to tell his side of the story. i'd have him lay out the facts --- explain why he needed the drugs, what the medical benefit was, and how he didn't break any laws or any mlb rules. i'd have him state publicly that when mlb instituted its formal steroid ban in 2005, he stopped using the drugs. that'd make this story go fizz in a new york minute.

he's got no legal obligation to do this, of course, but he has a selfish reason to do it --- he wants to avoid a swirl of controversy and suspicion. the "innocent-til-proven-guilty" standard doesn't apply here; we're not in a courtroom. we're in the court of public opinion, and in this venue the burden of proof tends to fall upon the accused rather than the accuser. fair? maybe not, but life often isn't. if ankiel just issues a "no comment" or a two-sentence statement written by a boras flunky, it will leave the impression that he's got something to hide, and many will judge him harshly. ankiel can create the opposite impression by facing the story openly and unabashedly.

failing that, suspicion is going to follow him around. blame the messenger if you want to; decry the sins of the evil media. but if ankiel really did this, and he isn't willing to talk about it, then ask yourself: why won't he talk about it? if it's truly no big deal and no code of conduct was breached --- why won't he talk about it? he can stick it to the media and make his accusers look like a bunch of hype-mongering fools simply by standing up to the accusations. yeah, it's true. [shrug] my doctor said hgh would help my rehab along; he said it had been helpful in some other cases that were similar to mine. and it wasn't on the list of banned substances; we checked that out in advance. it was all legal, all above-board.

end of story.

walt jocketty told the daily news: "If it's true, obviously it would be very tragic, along with everything else we've had happen to us this year." i agree wth walt. the steroid-abuse saga has a million hypocrites and scoundrels, from the commissioner down through the general managers, the coaches and on-field managers, the beat writers and broadcasters, the trainers, the agents . . . . . all those guys have their fingerprints on the syringes. and now they're all running away from what they did; nobody wants to talk about it. why won't they talk? if they didn't do anything wrong, why would they choose to give the impression that they did?

i hope ankiel will bat these allegations out of the park as effortlessly as he has been swatting big-league pitches over the wall.