Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Crisis of Character in America's Pastime: MLB All Star MVP Fails Drug Test

When the 2012 Major League Baseball All Star Game MVP fails a drug test and is suspended for 50 games, it is a reminder that the American pastime must more seriously address its substance abuse problem.

Melky Cabrera of the San Francisco Giants was leading the National League with 159 hits and batting .346 which was second in the league. And so the questions, how many games did the Giants win unfairly while he was using a banned performance enhancing substance? Also, does the National League deserve homefield advantage in the next World Series since they won the All Star Game with Cabrera as the MVP?

This latest scandal confirms my December 24, 2007 posting on the need for MLB to more seriously address its drug problem:

Transforming Major League Baseball: Truthfulness, Character Courage

Baseball has always been my favorite sport. As a child, love for the game was expressed through card collecting, knowing the lineup of one’s favorite team by heart and articulating it with each batter at every whiffle ball or stickball game. Some of my most cherished memories are of coaching my son's little league baseball team. I consider this the highest honor and privilege.

Baseball became particularly important to me after the tragic death of Yankee catcher Thurman Munson. Soon thereafter, through coincidental circumstances, I found myself involved with Major League Baseball on a much more profound level as a confidant to the New York Yankees and to many players throughout the league.

The lesson from this experience remains with me to this day: money does not define the person. It is character — a good heart, appreciating life, fostering good will toward others — that is important in life. Pinstripes do not determine the person but the stripes of thoughtfulness, respect, civility, truthfulness, kindness and charity toward others are what is important in the game of life. Many Yankees learned that lesson in the summer of 1979 after the death of their beloved captain.

I was particularly disappointed with the Major League Baseball steroid scandal. Weak drug policies were destructive to the integrity of the game and too many officials ignored the crisis until public outcry forced their hand. The release of the Mitchell Report on the illegal use of steroids in Major League Baseball has brought the scandal once again into the forefront of America's collective consciousness.

As a leadership and security educator dedicated to the transforming of our nation through character development, I view this scandal as one facet of America’s crisis of character, built on the unethical foundations of deception, cheating, disrespect and arrogance.

Baseball Scandal Reflections

  • As the national pastime with a rich history in America, baseball reflects the character of our nation.
  • Our nation needs its moral compass realigned and it is essential that professional baseball and all associated with it—players, coaches, owners, executives and employees—is fully committed to implementing a code of ethics emphasizing truthfulness, character and courage.
  • The message of any Major League Baseball team when signing a player with known unethical behavior is that cheating is rewarded. Rewarding dishonesty hurts all involved in the long run and a dedication to ethics is a path worth taking.
  • Major League Baseball must be committed to transforming the sport. Its response to the House and Senate hearings was slow. It is time for action, not more investigations and meetings.
  • Unless Major League Baseball is truly committed to fair play, integrity and a code of ethics, the lesson to hundreds of thousands of college, high school and youth athletes is that winning is the goal at any cost.
  • The truth is critical to healing. Unless the truth is told by players, managers, owners and executives, the opportunity for a return to ethical behavior will be lost and denial will continue to rule the day.

Like it or not, the behavior of professional sports personalities plays an important role in setting an example for our youth. The reaction of those players named in the report will be watched and evaluated. We must commend those players who have come forward and admitted their mistakes and apologized to their fans.

Jason Giambi, who admitted using steroids months prior to the release of the Mitchell Report—even at the risk of losing his contract—must be singled out for speaking out when no one else would. Such truthfulness shows character and moral courage. (click here to read previous blog on Giambi)

It is important to understand that in America one is innocent until proven guilty and that the Mitchell Report does not carry the evidentiary weight that would be needed in a criminal proceeding. That being said, I am deeply disturbed by Roger Clemens' denial of steroid use. His video denial is reminiscent of former President Clinton's denial on national television. (see video clips below)

Assuming there is no "hard evidence" to "prove" that Clemens used steroids, it comes down to Roger's word against the word of Brian McNamee, Clemens' former personal trainer.

Some argue that McNamee is jealous of Clemens and trying to destroy his reputation. To date, no other players have denied McNamee's allegations. Andy Pettite admitted his mistakes and apologized, implicitly confirming McNamee's statements about Pettite's use. It is clear that McNamee stands to lose much by lying about Clemens' steroid use. According to the report,

  • McNamee faces criminal prosecution if any of his testimony is found to be false.
  • In the summer of 1998, McNamee injected Clemens with Winstrol, an anabolic steroid.
  • In 1999 after Clemens was traded to the Yankees, McNamee was hired by the Yankees.
  • McNamee was paid by both the Yankees and by Clemens as his personal trainer.
  • In the middle of the 2000 season, McNamee injected Clemens four to six times with testosterone; during the same period, he also injected Clemens with human growth hormone.

For the good of his family, for the good of the game baseball, for the good of the nation, Roger Clemens should show some courage and character and tell the truth about his steroid use. If by some chance, Brian McNamee was lying about Roger Clemens' steroid use, then Mr. McNamee should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Roger Clemens Statement (1:48)

Bill Clinton Statement (0:25)

Vincent Bove on Character (0:11)

<a HREF="">Play the clip on YouTube</A>


What Major League Baseball teaches our kids Click here to visit site
The Mitchell Report Click here to visit site
A Guide for Understanding Steroids and Related Substances Click here to visit site Click here to visit site
Steroids: Dangerous, Damaging and Dishonorable
Vincent J. Bove—December 2006
Click here to visit site
American Leadership in an Age of Scandal
Vincent J. Bove—December 2005
Click here to visit site
Baseball Has A Day of Reckoning In Congress
Washington Post—March 2005
Click here to visit site
Baseball officials announce tougher steroids policy
USA Today—January 2005
Click here to visit site

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