Bud Selig's current steroid hardball does not excuse willful ignorance of '90s

Patrick McDermott

Selig can't rewrite his legacy with him as an anti-steroid crusader when his playing dumb in the '90s contributed to baseball's PED problem in the first place.

In 1992, Bud Selig became the acting commissioner of Major League Baseball when an 18-9 vote of no confidence among the owners ousted commissioner Fay Vincent. Selig did not officially become the commissioner until 1998, but he has essentially been the head of Major League Baseball for the past 21 years. Thus, he automatically became one of Congress's primary targets when they investigated MLB's murky performance-enhancing drug policies in 2005 and had a hearing in Washington, DC. After all, the offensive boom from the mid-'90s through the mid-2000s occurred under his watch, as players got bigger, baseballs flew further, and MLB was lavished with money from the return of fans, TV networks, and more.

Since those steroid-infused days, MLB has developed its performance-enhancing drug policy to the point where offense has now returned to more normal levels. (Ten years ago, MLB teams scored 4.7 runs per game, and they now score 4.2 runs per game.) However, the recent Biogenesis clinic investigations exposed flaws in MLB's drug testing methods. Numerous players allegedly used PEDs provided by Anthony Bosch and they were not caught by the system. Now, Selig is coming down hard on the biggest name in the Biogenesis news, Alex Rodriguez.

MLB supposedly has a dump truck full of evidence against A-Rod, who previously admitted to using steroids from 2001-03 with the Texas Rangers and did not face suspension then since there was no suspension policy. Although he has never failed a drug test, A-Rod reportedly faces a 214-game suspension that would last from now through the end of the 2014 season. Likely due to a hesitance to hurt the 29 other teams by letting the Yankees off the hook for A-Rod's entire contract, the suspension will not be for life, and because he does not want to get into a legal battle with the MLB Players Association over the nebulous "best interests of the game" clause in the collective bargaining agreement, Selig will not prevent A-Rod from appealing the suspension.

Nonetheless, the 214 games seems to be extreme since it is more than double the length of a suspension for two positive PED tests, let alone one. The evidence would need to indicate some truly damning things about A-Rod's relationship with Biogenesis to validate it, and unsurprisingly, A-Rod is planning to appeal it to reduce the sentence, at the very least. Selig is taking a tough stance against A-Rod and PEDs in an apparent attempt to make his legacy known as someone who would not stand for steroid use in the game. Unfortunately for Selig, it's all a sham. It seems quite evident that Selig and MLB knew about the rampant steroid use in the '90s and did nothing about it.

In 2010, former slugger Mark McGwire finally owned up to using steroids throughout his career, including his record-breaking 70-homer season in 1998. This was not shocking to anyone, but it was the first time McGwire admitted to it. Consensus around then was that MLB certainly knew about McGwire's steroid use when they were called to testify before Congress in 2005, and that they probably had an idea of McGwire's usage late in Big Mac's career. A former FBI agent, Greg Stejskal, came forward shortly after McGwire's admission and revealed the truth: MLB officials knew about McGwire's use as far back as 1993.

Stejskal was part of a federal investigation into illegal steroid distribution from 1989-1993, a funded search that chose to target the dealers more than the users in the hopes of cracking down on as much steroid use as possible. During this search, Stejskal learned of McGwire's steroid use with the Oakland Athletics and informed MLB:

Stejskal recalled that he shared information from the investigation related to baseball players with Major League Baseball's then security boss, Kevin Hallinan, though the sport had no drug testing program at the time.

"We had two sources that told us they personally had seen [McGwire] use steroids," Stejskal told ESPN.com. "Not to mention the fact that Canseco said it as well, which gives you a third source. But we knew it before Canseco said it. And we knew specifics, too. We knew this wasn't a one-time shot or an experimental thing. This guy had a regimen and stuff."

There was little reason for Hallinan to do nothing with information. Per his duties, it was his responsibility to at least pass the buck up the line; it would be shocking if it never reached the commissioner's office. Regardless, MLB would not have a PED-testing program of any kind for another 10 years. Yes, the MLBPA and its president, Donald Fehr, played an important role in preventing testing, but presented with news of an FBI investigation revealing steroid use, it seems unlikely that Selig, Fehr, and their cohorts could not work anything for 10 whole years.

After the players' strike alienated fans in 1994, baseball sought and eventually received a boon of fan interest that was largely the result of the '98 home run chase between McGwire and Sammy Sosa; given the growth, MLB had little reason to sully its new cash cow. Whether it was the smart move in a Machiavellian sense or not, Selig chose his fate back then. He was the head of a corporation that tolerated PED use since the public was not as aware as it is now, and MLB was receiving incredible revenue as a result. Presenting A-Rod as the enemy and himself as the savior in regards to the current Biogenesis PED suspensions isn't going to save his legacy.

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